Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira has backed Christian Benteke to reach double figures this season but believes the forward can improve his decision making in the final third.
Benteke, 30, has scored four goals for the South Londoners this season and featured in every Premier League game under the Frenchman.
The Belgian international recently bagged a brace against Burnley and has scored 11 times this calendar year for the Eagles – his best since joining from Liverpool in 2016 and more than any other Palace player in 2021.
“I’m really pleased with his form at the moment,” said Vieira. “He’s playing really well – he’s working really hard for the team. Most importantly, he’s scoring goals, and he’s playing with a lot of confidence. The way that we play, the amount of possession we have, allows him to have more of the ball and create a couple more chances.
“The fact that we want to defend higher up the field allows him to be more involved in the game – it suits him. The fact that we have Odsonne Edouard and Jean-Philippe Mateta brings the best out of him because he maybe needed that competition around him to challenge him. It’s an important fact.
“I would be happy if he reaches double figures – he can do that easily.”
When asked how he believes the ex-Liverpool forward could improve his game, the three-time Premier League winner added: “It’s a goal target – it’s about the assists he can make. It’s the decision making – he can be better at that. That will allow the team to play better and create more chances.
“He’s an international player who has been scoring goals in the Premier League. He has got the experience to be one of the leaders in this team. I still want him to do even more for the team because he has got the potential and the quality to do it. We will have to be more and more demanding of him.”
Benteke was one of the three out of contract players from last season to stay on following Roy Hodgson’s departure, but unlike Nathaniel Clyne and Joel Ward, the forward was signed before Vieira arrived at the club.
Speaking on whether this version of Benteke was the player he expected to find when he took over from Hodgson, Vieira said: “Yes. When you score goals year after year, you have still got it – I didn’t teach him how to score goals. The way that we want to approach the game means having more crosses, having more balls into the box and allowing him to create those chances.
“Being a striker is all about confidence. When you score one, you score two, and you start to build yourself again – he is in a good place.”
PICTURE: KEITH GILLARD
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