‘’I know how important he is and we need to get him back to where he was’’ The exact quote that was said by Tim Sherwood about Christian Benteke on his first day in front of the press at Villa Park when becoming Paul Lambert’s successor in February; Sherwood set our clear intentions from the off that Benteke would be the man to save Villa by getting him back to his outstanding form he showed when he first joined the club.
What a sensational job Sherwood has achieved so far at Villa, however it will only prove successful should he ensure the Villans survive this seasons Premier League campaign, but following a recent spell of successful results, Sherwood seems to have been the correct appointment.
There wasn’t many harder jobs to step into as a manager taking over a team that had only scored 11 goals in 25 league matches, couldn’t find a win from anywhere and were proving themselves likely candidates for the chop from the Premier League.
However, Sherwood’s survival objectives for his new Villa side was to get six wins in their remaining fixtures and get Benteke back to his prolific form which saw him score 23 goals in his debut Premier League campaign and then Villa will survive, and that’s exactly what Villa are set to achieve.
In this new Sherwood era we’ve seen more features from Charles N’Zogbia and youngster Jack Grealish who were both out of favour under Lambert, but the duo along with Gabriel Agbonlahor and Fabian Delph prove clinical for Villa’s suited attacking style of play; moving the ball quickly and being the providers for Benteke.
The first signs of the revival of Benteke and also Villa’s season was the must win derby match at home against West Bromwich Albion, an energetic, powerful and creative performance from Benteke was rounded off with a stoppage time penalty winner, that’s what got things back on course for Villa with a 2-1 win.
The Belgian’s sign of good things to come soon continued, he had the backing of the fans again and he almost seemed a new man at Villa Park who wanted to play football again, unlike the lost soul under Lambert who couldn’t finish anything in the final third and wasn’t missed when on the injury list.
The next sign that there is still hope for the anxious Villa faithful was the away visit to The Stadium Of Light, where the traveling fans saw the 4-0 trouncing against Sunderland, Benteke seemed back to his best with quick attacking play, being feeded crosses from full-back Leandro Bacuna who bagged a brace of assists that game. Benteke was on the score sheet twice that game in which he outplayed both former Manchester United defenders John O’Shea and Wes Brown in every single aspect of their game; Benteke’s strike partner Agbonlahor also netted twice to see the pair put the season of misery in front of goal behind them. A diverse range of goals, from long balls, open play and also crosses showed Sherwood had produced a diverse range of tactics for his side to break down defences to suit his strike force.
Sherwood has completely rejuvenated the Villa squad and their playing style is incredible, the way they move the ball in the oppositions half is frightening and would cause any defence problems, although a short spell of defeats against Swansea and Man United gave a few supporters doubts again, they were soon to be put to bed.
In a month of menacing fixtures where Villa would face Man United, Manchester City and Tottenham away from home as well as a tie against Queens Park Rangers and an FA Cup semi-final match to look forward to, this was a month which some outsiders believed would see Villa fall into the relegation zone, however March’s opening couple of performances show something completely different. Excellent football has already been produced, but there’s still more to come.
A six-goal thriller at Villa Park against QPR saw Benteke hit the form of his life, he entered the game in form after scoring four goals in four league games, this tally nearly doubled in this game alone. Benteke ran riot and made QPR’s defence look a shambles, he hit the best form of his playing career so far securing a terrific hat-trick. When he had the ball at his feet he drove and drove at a helpless QPR defence and scored two goals when he charged directly forward and buried Rob Green in each occasion. He completed the hat-trick scoring a stunning late free kick which turned out to be the crucial equaliser. Villa’s attacking nature produced possibly their best display of football this season, but were still held to a 3-3 draw and Benteke looked in the best form he’s ever been in since his move to B6.
Villa now looked more dangerous than they ever had done attacking wise and couldn’t be more confident traveling to White Hart Lane on the back of a sublime performance in front of goal. Written off by many before the game even commenced, ex-Tottenham boss Sherwood had plans of his own, which again revolved around making Benteke our target man and it paid off. It may have not been the cleanest of goals but Benteke found the net again, and to no surprise it was another Bacuna assist from progressing down the right flank which has been encouraged by Sherwood. The 1-0 full time result has almost but secured Villa’s survival this season, but there’s still everything to play for, however with all Villa’s wingers and forwards playing exceptional week in week out there’s not much too fear.
Benteke has certainly raised his price tag again after a dip in performances following his world class opening season at Villa, but now since Sherwood’s appointment and playing to Benteke’s style, it has seen the talisman become leading goalscorer in the Premier League since Sherwood’s arrival scoring eight league goals since February 21st, closely followed by Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud on seven, but Benteke deserves the credit. The performances shouldn’t only give Villa hope for the remainder of this season, but also for seasons to come.
It’s simple, Sherwood is a tactical genius he knows how to get the team’s style of play right to fit the leading target man, we saw the exact same circumstances when at Tottenham with Emmanuel Adebayor, out of favour, couldn’t produce anything in the final third and really looked worthless to the club. It shows just how much of a positive impact it was sacking Lambert and bringing in the new man, a boost in morale, a boost in fan support and a boost in our match day performances have simply come from Sherwood developing or style of play to suit Benteke, something so obvious to Sherwood’s predecessor but failed to imply that right tactics for Aston Villa.
Tim certainly does know how important Benteke is to ensure survival for Villa and for their future and he is completely on course to get him back to where he was, with the likeliness of Benteke even exceeding those expectations based on recent elevated, consistent performances. He was immediately targeted by Sherwood and was labelled Villa’s key asset up front and there’s no one else to thank for his phenomenal performances other than his new boss.