As Aston Villa were reeling this week following Christian Benteke’s transfer request, manager Paul Lambert must have felt a victim of his own good work. Last summer, the Scotsman took over a team on an apparent unrelenting decline. As if being the new manager at one of England’s biggest clubs wasn’t enough of a challenge, he had to conduct a juggling act; lowering the wage-bill and blooding young players out of necessity, whilst simultaneously maintaining Villa’s Premier League status.
Eventually, despite some crushing defeats and a host of doubts early on in the campaign, Villa evolved into one of the most eye-catching sides in the country. Lambert marshaled his young stars with patience and assurance, and eventually they repaid him. In the end, Villa finished comfortably clear of the relegation zone.
The crown jewel of this new-look Villa outfit is the aforementioned Benteke, a player brought in by Lambert for £7 million last summer. His haul of 23 goals represented an enormous contribution to the club’s survival efforts, cementing Benteke’s reputation as one of Europe’s brightest prospects in the process.
But Villa look set to start next season without their star-man, with the former Genk player having made his intentions to leave the Midlands abundantly clear.
Benteke’s request is understandable, and his head has obviously been turned following persistent links with some of English footballs more illustrious names. But the Belgian forward should think twice before walking out the Villa Park door. Especially after just a solitary season in the Premier League.
You might argue that Benteke “owes” Villa and Lambert after taking a punt on him. But that is a somewhat romanticized notion, for in reality, Benteke holds no allegiance to the Midlands outfit. Does he really “owe” them anything after his goals dragged them clear of relegation? Probably not.
Whilst Villa would obviously benefit from another season with Benteke leading their attack, the Belgian would see his game develop further should he remain there.
After some bleak times in recent years, Villa are a club that are starting to do things the right way under Lambert. They have grown into a system based on high-octane, dynamic brand of football which is tailor-made for Benteke’s style of play.
The team are vertical in their passing, but by no means overly direct and this philosophy has enabled Benteke to flourish. One of the developing facets of Villa’s attacking play under Lambert has been getting the ball into Benteke early, allowing him to pin down defenders and dominating them with his robust style. The results, demonstrated by his goal return, have been astounding.