We're still more than two months away from the opening of the winter transfer window,. Plenty of teams are still only beginning to find their feet in this season's Premier League, but that hasn't stopped the rumour mill from getting into gear particularly early this year.
Some of the latest reports are concerning Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke, who has been linked with a number of top-flight clubs in England, including Liverpool, as per Jack Wilson at the Daily Star.
While there is no doubt that, along with Brad Guzan, Benteke was the main reason for Villa's ability to survive the drop last season, does that make the Belgian forward a good target for the Reds? Is he the type Brendan Rodgers needs to bring in?
Liverpool's Forwards, and Suarez and Sturridge
The established pairing for the Reds right now is Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, who have already combined to great effect this season and in the short time they had together between January and April.
Both are finding the back of the net recently and are contributing a lot to Liverpool's buildup play more often than not. They've also quickly formed an understanding on how to work with each other.
After those two, Iago Aspas and Fabio Borini—on loan at Sunderland this term—provide further forward options, with a whole host of players able to fill in in attacking positions if needed such as Victor Moses, Jordon Ibe, Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho.
The strengths of Benteke are certainly not limited to his physical prowess and his shooting, but they are certainly his two stand-out attributes.
Powerful, good aerially and quick onto balls over the top, he's an archetypal target man. However, he has more to his game than merely a striker the rest of the team plays up to and runs off.
He can dribble, his link-up play is serviceable and he works the channels well, while his league tally of 19 goals last season showcases his ability to hit the back of the net.
The downside, of course, is likely to be his hugely inflated price tag; Villa will demand a massive return on the £7 million or so they paid for him, and the report above links Spurs with an imminent £28 million move.
Rodgers' Plans for the Future
Let's put questions of who the signing is aside.
Should Liverpool move for a third "first-choice" striker in January—as opposed to a squad player such as the presently injured Aspas—it will be an indication that manager Brendan Rodgers has entirely abandoned his plans for a base system of 4-3-3, variations of which he has used since arriving last summer.
A two-man front-line shows that either the 3-5-2 is here to stay, or a variation of 4-4-2 is on the cards over the longer term.
That's not to say wingers and straight lines is back in fashion; Atletico Madrid prove that it can be a fluid and mobile system, while a diamond should also be a possibility for the Reds to consider, given the present players in the squad.
The key point is, two forwards will be paired together at all times, with supporting attacking midfielders expected to contribute to the creation of chances for them. This is opposed to the runners from wide being asked to score goals that Rodgers wanted from his 4-3-3.
Is Benteke the Answer?
Back to Benteke then.
Mobile and athletic as he is, Benteke is a totally different kind of forward to that which the Reds get from the pairing of Sturridge and Suarez. Both of those two love to drop deep, move out wide and get involved in the buildup, before attacking from deep—but can also simply run off the shoulder of the defence.
Benteke would be much more of a focal point for the attack, akin to when Andy Carroll was at the club, albeit with more consistency in front of goal and—recent absence aside—less injuries.
In truth, it doesn't sound much like a Rodgers signing, but then, two months ago it was difficult to imagine a straight front two with Victor Moses playing behind them centrally.
At such a massive price though, Benteke would be expected to play every game, meaning one of the current front line would be left out—and that is unthinkable right now.
A third striker would be no bad thing for Liverpool, especially if Rodgers wants to persist with the top two on a regular basis, but it's unlikely to be Christian Benteke in January.