In April, Villa’s top striker Christian Benteke suffered a nasty injury, rupturing his Achilles tendon. This put an abrupt end to what had been a difficult season for the Belgian, who had picked up numerous knocks and injuries during the course of the campaign and made it difficult for Benteke to rekindle his form from his first season in English football.
Signed from Genk in August 2012 for a fee believed to be approximately £7 million, the big striker took the Premier League by storm in his first season at the club. He scored nineteen times in thirty-four Premier League games after what seemed like a slow start in claret and blue. Benteke was very unlucky not to be named Villa’s player of the season at the end of the 2012-13 campaign and I’m sure he would have been if it wasn’t for some game-saving performances from goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Last season was a difficult time for the forward, who dipped in and out of form and fitness all year long and scored ten goals in twenty-games before he ruptured his Achilles tendon. At times Benteke even had fans doubting his commitment, with some going as far as to question whether he even wanted to be playing in the claret and blue of Aston Villa. There were times when the striker seemed fit but was still dropped by manager Paul Lambert simply for failing to put in consistent performances. Despite people’s initial reactions to this, it did prove successful on occasion and the smash-and-grab win against Southampton at St. Mary’s is a fitting example. With Benteke dropped, Libor Kozak stepped into the team to score one of the Villans’ three goals that night.
This season, many fans are very optimistic. After an impressive start, the Villans are currently in third place in the Premier League despite losing 0-3 at the hands of the Gunners on Saturday. With the highly rated striker back in training and set to return to action soon after this weekend’s game against Chelsea, his return could come at a crucial time – amid the Villans’ daunting run against last season’s top five teams – and give the squad a boost, particularly Agbonlahor, who will no doubt be happier to return to a role he is better suited to and support Benteke rather than try to replace him.
The Villans have missed Benteke, regardless of their current position and they have been aided by an element of luck: before the Arsenal game, Lambert’s Lions had earned ten points from six shots on target, which was the lowest number of shots on target in the Premier League. Agbonlahor and Weimann each have two goals this season and it’s clear that Benteke’s return will give the Villans an added edge as it is unlikely that the team, in his absence, could continue to reap the rewards of such unimpressive statistics.
It looks as though things can only get better when Benteke is fighting fit and doing what he does best, helping the Villans to go from strength to strength as this season progresses.