Paul Lambert Must Keep Faith in Christian Benteke Despite Alarming Goal Drought

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterDecember 4, 2013

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 09:  Christian Benteke of Aston Villa reacts after missing a chance on goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Cardiff City at Villa Park on November 9, 2013 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

In the 85th minute of the goalless draw between Aston Villa and Sunderland, Christian Benteke was taken off to a chorus of approval from the home crowd.

Fans sitting in the famous Holte End of Villa Park had been calling for his removal from around the 60th minute onward. The fact his eventual exit was greeted with cheers highlights the stark contrast between now and the feeling toward him at the end of last season.

No doubt about it, Benteke was a major factor in saving the club from relegation to the Championship a year ago. His 19 league goals fired them to safety. In missing the final game at Wigan Athletic, Benteke gave us a glimpse of what Villa look like without him—it was poor.

His dominant style drags Villa up the pitch. He creates goals, scores goals and he's been deadly consistent...until now.

The home game against Sunderland was the perfect opportunity for the Belgian to end his current goal drought, but by the time the final whistle had gone, a drab performance made it five starts (since his injury) without a goal. His last was scored in September.

Given his monstrous frame, impressive size, confident demeanour and incredible strike record, it's easy to forget that he's so young. Benteke turned 23 on December 3, and to place such heavy expectation on his shoulders is harsh.

He set a standard last season that he hasn't been able to replicate, but that cannot be considered a shock. He scored 15 goals in the second half of the 2012-13 campaign, a record second only to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Villa have been poor at home this season and the fans are getting irritated. They've been forced to swap goalscoring bonanzas for goalless draws, and they're not quite sure how they feel about it just yet.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 30:  Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert walks to his dugout before the start of the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Sunderland at Villa Park on November 30, 2013 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Michael
Michael Regan/Getty Images

There are many calling for Libor Kozak to start against Southampton in Benteke's place, but Paul Lambert has stood by his Belgian striker and told Sky Sports he's convinced he'll come good.

It's the right move.

Benteke really hasn't been as underwhelming as the five consecutive blanks on the scoresheet suggest, and some of the poor performances cannot be solely attributed to him.

It became clear, as Phil Jagielka outran him in a sprint, that the striker wasn't fit enough to start against Everton. His missed penalty summed up how little confidence he had in his own body.

Against West Ham, he hit the bar with a thunderous header and forced a world-class save from Jussi Jaaskelainen in the final minutes. He was sub-par against Cardiff City and Sunderland, yes, but he was deployed in an odd, deep-lying role against West Bromwich Albion that did him absolutely no favours at all.

Benteke is unlucky not to have scored and he's had two bad games. The fervour surrounding his drought is a product of the consistent precedent he set last season, and once the next one goes in he'll enter beast-mode once again.

It's a matter of time, and it could be against anyone. Dropping him to the bench at this point will only enhance Lambert's problems, and Benteke needs to continue to play to work through this blip.

Because that's all it is, a blip.