Should Benteke and Sturridge Play Together?

A couple of tweets from fellow Liverpool stathead @natefc (Twitter, blog) caught my eye on Sunday as the Reds slumped to a 2-0 defeat at Newcastle:

Those stats don’t make good reading for Benteke’s match impact when starting (though with/without stats are never really down to just one player) or his partnership, if one pass in an hour can be called that, with Roberto Firmino.

I decided to find the pass, out of morbid curiousity as much as anything…

To be fair, Ibe had a shot at the end of this sequence, so it wasn’t the worst pass of the match by any means (which is easily done when Liverpool misplaced more passes than in any league match for the last five years), but clearly the Reds need more from their front two if they choose to play one. In fairness, Firmino and Benteke exchanged seven passes in the previous league match against Swansea, though none lead to either of them having a shot at goal.

So based on the above stats, should Benteke’s role be limited to that of an impact substitute, or should he perhaps be given a chance up top alongside Daniel Sturridge?

One of the things I monitor is how many minutes each Liverpool player plays, and whilst updating the spreadsheet after the Newcastle game it became clear how little Benteke and Sturridge have played together so far. The depth of colour relates to how long they featured for, and a grey box means they were an unused substitute.

DS and CB appsAs one came on for the other (or were subbed on/off at the same time) in the last two league matches, we can see that Benteke and Sturridge have only played together against Norwich City at Anfield (so at no point yet under Jürgen Klopp), and even then it was only for forty-five minutes as the Belgian went off injured at half time. So how did they link up as a pair?

We have to be careful as it was only one half of football, at home, and against a newly promoted side, but it appears they linked up well; five passes in total, and all in the final third. Suárez and Sturridge used to average around eight passes a game, which is not to say this partnership would be anywhere near as successful of course, but it’s a similar frequency of link up at least.

I think a more traditional front two partnership would benefit Daniel Sturridge as well as Benteke. In the league this season, Sturridge’s top combination for creating chances is with Danny Ings (with the former creating one and the latter two), and this is despite only playing 184 minutes together. In total, the two Daniels exchanged twelve passes, at a healthy rate of one every fifteen minutes.

Similar to the Benteke-Sturridge partnership, we must remember that half of this Sturridge-Ings time was at home to bottom club Aston Villa, but it’s another scrap of evidence that suggests two forwards may link well up front for Liverpool. There may yet be hope for Benteke when starting games, if he’s played along side a traditional striker.

Please follow me on Twitter or Facebook for blog updates. Scroll down to see the related posts for this article. Thanks.

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