Finding a successful signing is a bit like picking the right girlfriend; they might look good from afar and may have great statistics but until they move in you can’t be sure if you’ve made the right choice.
Take Fernando Torres.
Chelsea knew they had bought guaranteed goals and paid a premium price for that security. But after uprooting to Stamford Bridge, the Spaniard has sown only seeds of suspicion about his ability and cultivated ghastly headlines rather than opportunities for his new compadres.
But while gems can turn to crushed remnants of their former glory, some jewels can be found in piles of filth. Enter Darren Bent, a man discarded to the slag heap in a team struggling to regain respect and results. Quite why Lambert has sacrificed the £24m is open for debate but perhaps he shared some of the concerns that have made me wary of England striker.
Linked with Liverpool for a number of seasons he was always a player I have been reluctant about. He never seemed a thoroughbred Premier League star and felt more like the kind of forward who could propel a decent side to something better, but a nagging doubt lingered about his ability to perform for a top team.
Perhaps his Spurs experience reinforced that opinion but the reservation was there prior to his White Hart Lane disappointment. So why should he be considered for a shift to Merseyside in January?
In his teen years, Bent was a precocious talent demolishing Championship (or First Division) opposition for Ipswich netting 48 goals in 122 games at a rate of one every 2.54 games in the process. However, not seeking to rest on his laurels, he moved up to the Premier League with Charlton and pulverized competitors with a 1 goal every two games in his first season of top flight football at the tender age of 21.
Now, this was an impressive rise. A vibrant young English striker, delivering goals against quality opponents in a team that was no better than decent. So why wasn’t I convinced? Well partly because he was put in a team where he was expected to do nothing except score goals. His contribution to the rest of play seemed non-existent; he struck me as a player who would make the most of an opportunity that presented itself but do nothing to create chances himself.
This was perhaps more of an impressionist image of Darren Bent rather than a true portrait of him and his move to Tottenham for £18m was his opening to advance claims for an England berth and to keep the goal tally clocking up nicely. Only it didn’t work out that way at all.
He was inevitably the substitute playing third fiddle to Keane and Berbatov and his goal tally suffered as a result. Even after their departure, he had a run of games only to find that Defoe and Keane had come back to the club to move him back down the pecking order. There was no fairytale story for Bent after his move to an ambitious big name club and a move was inevitable.
At Sunderland, he sought to repair his reputation and in rampant fashion he tormented defences and notched an impressive 24 goals in 38 Premier League games, as many as Torres in his first season at Liverpool, for the record.
But this was the source of my issues with Darren Bent as a candidate for a Liverpool role. As the first choice main man he has delivered and even though I have reservations about his effectiveness as a team player, his goal tally is undeniable. However, at Liverpool he would never have been the first choice striker due to Torres’ presence and Benitez preferred tactical striking options ahead of like-for-like replacements.
That is no longer the case. Liverpool is a different team and while Suarez is an excellent striker, he does not rely on a supply chain. Suarez has been a stinging hornet for LFC rivals but his potency would not be likely to be reduced by the arrival of Bent. The Uruguayan can strike at the opposition from the right, left or centre and frequently we find Suarez cutting in across the box leaving Defenders bamboozled and teammates in space. Bent at the top of the three would be a step forward for Liverpool now.
Suarez, Bent and Sterling could pierce defences and with two wingers so technically able buzzing about the pitch, it doesn’t matter if Bent creates nothing for them. They create their own opportunities with darting runs and venomous shots.
It would be myopic not to point out that Bent has failed to hit Premier League double figures since that explosive season on Wearside, and although he has played far fewer games since 2010 that only raises concern. However, as someone who is notorious for his few touches in League games but his lethal finishing, Bent could be a clever bit of business particularly if we can snare him on loan and try him out before we decide if he’s right.
As an unwanted player at Aston Villa, the deal is easy for Liverpool and with the dearth of attacking options a loan deal would be so low risk it would be stupid not to sign him.
Bent will never be a world class forward but if he were to score at his average career rate of 1 every 2.35 games this season he would be a good success for LFC and if he found his Sunderland form, maybe we won’t just have to dream about the Champion’s League next season.
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