Saturday afternoon saw Crystal Palace fall to their second consecutive 2-0 home defeat and whilst the Eagles’ general play left a great deal to be desired, fans were once again left discussing Belgian striker Christian Benteke’s inability to find the back of the net by the time the final whistle blew.
Admittedly, Mark Hughes’ Saints were undoubtedly the better side for the opening hour of the contest, sneaking in front through Danny Ings just after the interval as a direct consequence of some woeful defending on our part but even so, the big man leading the line for Roy Hodgson had plenty of opportunities to level the scores prior to Hojbjerg’s strike in stoppage time.
At this stage, it’s quite clear that the former Liverpool striker is struggling massively for confidence whenever he steps on the field and although I and thousands of others are sympathetic towards his mental state, the Premier League is utterly ruthless if you aren’t on your game as a striker from week to week. On Saturday, Christian missed two gilt-edged chances in the second half, one on his left foot after being played through inside the penalty area and another with his head, unmarked, five yards from goal.
You could argue that Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy made great stops on both occasions (that will certainly be the angle Mark Hughes adopts) but when all is said and done, a frontman of Benteke’s status needs to burying at least one of the two aforementioned opportunities if he’s going to keep wolves from his door.
Yes, his game is about more than putting the ball into the back of the net but after seeing Alexander Sørloth bag the winner away at Swansea last Tuesday, it’s difficult to escape the view that a striker’s primary function within any team is to the score goals.
Perhaps Benteke will come good again but for the time being, his form is a real concern. Let’s hope the international break allows him to rediscover his finishing touch.