Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson is hopeful Christian Benteke’s goal for Belgium can act as a turning point for the striker, but warned he will need to score regularly for his club to win back his starting position.
The 28-year-old agreed a new deal on Thursday which will keep him at Selhurst Park until the summer of 2021 and scored in a 9-0 win over San Marino last week.
It was Benteke’s first goal since April and that effort against Arsenal was the only goal he managed during the whole 2018-19 campaign.
Palace’s number 17 has endured a torrid run of form since netting 17 times in his debut season for the club, but Hodgson has been offered encouragement ahead of Saturday’s home clash with Premier League champions Manchester City.
He said: “It is the pressure when you’re a forward and you haven’t scored for a while, but it was great to see him score a good goal for Belgium and also to see the runs he was making which you know will get him goals.
“It is a catch 22 situation to some extent because the longer you go without scoring, the worse the problem becomes and there’s always the risk with confidence, which will fail if you are not scoring goals.
“Then you won’t get yourself into the goalscoring position. It is one of those things which can only be put right in some way by Christian coming back and having the sort of season he had when he first came to the club where he scored a lot of goals.
“But that hasn’t happened in the last couple of years and as a result, unfortunately, attention turns towards him and criticism comes his way.”
Upon signing a one-year extension with the club, Benteke promised to repay the faith shown in him by everyone associated with Palace.
Hodgson says the mentality of the former Liverpool forward cannot be questioned, adding: “It’s really just a question of showing your support all the time and making certain he is fully involved in all the work we do with our attacking players.
“And he knows as well as I do, there is no simple solution to this problem. I think mentally he’s a strong man. It’s not as if he’s weak and he knows all he can do is to continue being strong.”
What has not helped Benteke has been a lack of game time – largely down to his poor record in front of goal.
Jordan Ayew has established himself as Hodgson’s number one striker with three goals so far this term and he will lead the line against City on Saturday.
“Christian can only play as the central one and all the time I’m selecting Jordan, that unfortunately means Christian is on the bench,” Palace’s manager said.
“But there is nothing to say that one day that won’t reverse in some way and also that we won’t actually play with two forwards, which they could quite happily do.”
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