Focus: Why Benteke is crucial to the Klopp revolution

The Belgian's return from injury means Crystal Palace could have their work cut out stopping Liverpool, says Alex Keble...

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Liverpool have made a quietly assured start to life under Jurgen Klopp, but – as expected - the ultra-attacking gegenpress has not been installed overnight. The biggest change the German has made so far is the formation, with Liverpool now utilising two central attacking midfielders in a narrow 4-3-2-1.

This has looked only slightly promising to date, but the return of Christian Benteke should really kick-start the Klopp revolution.

Adam Lallana has been the star player over these first five games, and his free-roaming interplay with Philippe Coutinho has been an intriguing element of the new manager’s approach. Lallana and Coutinho cover enormous amounts of space across attacking midfield, often linking up together but largely darting into pockets of space at every opportunity to sew together the passing triangles created deeper in midfield.

Stats Zone Lallana

Lallana’s passes vs Chelsea (left) and Coutinho’s passes vs Southampton (right)

This has mostly led to some decent passing moves in the opposition half but with no final product – until Benteke came off the bench at Chelsea and suddenly the whole system made sense.

Like Robert Lewandowski at Dortmund, Benteke will be the fulcrum upon which Liverpool’s attacks swing; the reason for the narrow 4-3-2-1 is to swarm bodies around the Belgian giant. Both of Liverpool’s second half goals were caused directly by Benteke’s aerial threat and, more importantly, his team-mates’ ability to latch onto the second ball (all three of his headers against Chelsea found a Liverpool player).

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Stats Zone Benteke

Benteke’s headers rarely found a team-mate against Stoke (left), under Rodgers, compared to against Chelsea (right)

Chelsea were slow to close down Coutinho and Benteke before their shots hit the back of the net, and the reason for this was the unusual presence of two attacking midfielders in a similar zone.

On both occasions it was Lallana’s dummy (though only one was intentional) that confused the Chelsea centre-backs and created space for the strike.

Benteke should start this weekend, and Lallana and Coutinho will lurk close to him in order to retrieve the knock-downs and create chances in the final third. As such, Yohan Cabaye has a monumental defensive task in shielding the back four, whilst Damien Delaney (3.7 aerials won per match) must stick tight to Benteke.

Stats Zone Delaney

Delaney’s aerial duels against Gestede’s Villa (left) and Cabaye’s defensive dashboard against Spurs (right)

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