Roy Hodgson has warned the misfiring Christian Benteke that he will need to start scoring if he is to retain his place in Crystal Palace’s starting XI.
The striker, 27, who became their club-record signing when arriving from Liverpool for £27million in 2016, was again guilty of missing a succession of goalscoring chances during Saturday’s 2-0 defeat by Southampton.
Hodgson has so far retained faith in a once-reliable goalscorer who was signed by Alan Pardew and impressed under Sam Allardyce but who has continued to struggle in the same way as last season, during which he scored only three goals.
The Palace manager has also overseen the recruitment of fellow strikers Alexander Sorloth and Jordan Ayew during his time at the club, expects Connor Wickham to soon return to fitness and remains interested in re-signing Bakary Sako – suggesting competition for selection will grow.
He insists Benteke presently remains their first-choice striker but he also said: “Of course the moment may well come when we think, ‘Better do something about this’, and as we get players back fit like Wilf Zaha and (James) Tomkins, the options will become greater.
“It depends what your options are, doesn’t it? We still consider (Benteke) to be our best option in that position. Had we had other options, maybe we might have considered those too.
“All the time he is working as hard as he is and trying as hard, it might not be the right moment (to drop him).
“We encourage him as best we can. We encourage him to concentrate hard on the things he can do. We encourage him to realise that it is not just about scoring goals.
“There are other things he needs to do to make us a successful team and get us points. We do all the things any sensible manager and coaching staff would do.
“If he goes away with Belgium (during the international football break), maybe gets a chance to play in one of the games, scores a couple of goals, that would be great for us.”
The striker’s former Liverpool team-mate Danny Ings produced the fine finish that gave Southampton the lead that was doubled in stoppage time by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg as they secured their first Premier League victory of the season.
Ings has so far scored twice in four appearances since his summer arrival, suggesting he can finally provide his new team with a regular source of goals, and has also predicted Benteke would rediscover his goalscoring touch.
“He will come through that,” he said. “As a striker you’re judged on goals but what Christian gives you, and it’s a huge threat, is as a target man. There’s not many defenders who can beat him in the air.”
Ings has the further incentive of a friendly bet with another former team-mate, the prolific Mo Salah, who contacted him to establish a competition over who would score more goals this season.
“I wouldn’t be stupid enough to put any cash on it,” the 26-year-old Ings said. “It’s just a bit of banter.
“People would think I’m mad to take on that bet if there was cash involved. He proposed it; on messages when I left.”
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