Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Paul Lambert hails 'special' Christian Benteke as Darren Bent continues to be sidelined

Aston Villa 1 Reading 0: Paul Lambert has hailed Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke as “a special type of player” after his goal against Reading lifted the midlands club out of the Barclays Premier League bottom three.

Benteke continues to justify Lambert's decision to prefer the Belgian international to fit again record signing Darren Bent after netting the only goal last night at Villa Park.



The £7 million summer signing from Genk has quickly become a fans' favourite at Villa Park while Bent cannot even command a place amongst the substitutes.



Lambert predicts that it could be several more years before Benteke reaches his peak but is excited by what he is producing already as a 21-year-old.



The Scot said: "Christian has been excellent. You run out of things to say about the big guy.



"He has turned himself into a fans' favourite here, that's for sure, and his general game is outstanding at the minute.



"He has been brilliant for us. I thought the header for the winner against Reading was fantastic.



"You forget he is only 21 and he might not hit his peak until his late 20s but he is playing ever so well for us."



Benteke is used as the only out and out striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation and Lambert said: "You've got to be a special type of player to play that lone striker role.



"He has also been fantastic for Belgium and he is getting better with every game.



"He is developing his whole demeanour...he is growing up. he is a strong lad but also has really good ability.



"He does get on the end of chances. I've been delighted with him."



Lambert has proved he is not afraid to make big decisions and since his arrival at Villa Park has axed the likes of Bent, Shay Given, Charles N'Zogbia and Stephen Ireland at various times.



Leaving Bent completely out of his matchday 18 for the last two games has been a big call, after the striker recovered three weeks ago from an ankle setback, given his goalscoring record.



It has led to speculation that the former Tottenham and Sunderland player, who was given and then had the captaincy removed by Lambert, will leave Villa in January.



But Lambert insisted: "I do pick a team honestly as I can. You can't please everyone all the time. You leave out people like Ireland and N'Zogbia, Given - big players.



"It is never to pick a team because you have that many lads to look after but I've got 25-26 lads I have to look after.



"I've not had one problem with any of the lads. The most important thing is this club and I'll always make decisions I think are right for this club."



When asked what Bent needs to do to get back into the team, Lambert said: "With any player, you work hard, you get in the side, you stay in the side. You play on merit.



"Everyone is the same. I watch them in training every day. I see how they play, how they train and then come Saturday, you pick a team you think will win.



"I'm not going to pick one I think will lose! You need everyone to pull the same way and that's hopefully what we will create here."



Villa visit bottom placed QPR on Saturday with Lambert hoping skipper and defender Ron Vlaar's calf problem - suffered in the goalless draw with Arsenal - will not result in a lengthy lay-off.



He said: "I'll have to wait and see how he goes in the next few days. It's his calf.



"I hope it's not going to rule him out for two to three weeks because he has been a big player for us."

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