By Chris Teale at Villa Park
It takes some players a good deal of time to settle in the Premier League before they really make an impact, but Christian Benteke seems to be an exception to this, with his goals lifting Aston Villa out of the relegation zone and keeping the club's record signing Darren Bent out of the team.
Since moving to Villa Park from Belgian club Genk for around £7 million in the summer, Benteke has been nothing less than a revelation, improving game on game and finding the net on a regular basis despite his side's lowly league position.
The 21-year-old caused numerous problems against the far more experienced defences of Manchester United and Arsenal, showing his ability to give the top teams a tough time on a regular basis, particularly when you consider the relatively close proximity between Villa's matches against those two.
Combined with his form for Belgium, for whom he has scored four goals in nine appearances since making his debut in 2010 for one of the best up and coming national sides in the world, it bodes well for his future when you consider that he may not reach his peak as a player for at least another five years.
Villa manager Paul Lambert has continually sung his praises in interviews and press conferences, with more forthcoming after the youngster's 80th-minute winning goal that gave the Villans a priceless 1-0 win at home to relegation rivals Reading.
In the aftermath of his latest triumph, Lambert said: "His general game is outstanding at the minute and he's been brilliant for us. I thought the header was fantastic, as he's up against a big lad himself. You always forget, he is only 21."
Lambert clearly feels he can afford to leave Bent out of the club’s Premier League matchday squad altogether thanks to Benteke's superb form, with the England international having made just nine appearances all season in the league, scoring twice.
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Things had looked rosy for Bent at the start of the season, as Lambert made the striker captain and had apparently decided to use him as the focal point of their attacking play, with support from Gabriel Agbonlahor, Andreas Weimann and the impressive Brett Holman.
However, the Belgian's goals and general play, starting with a simple tap-in against Swansea in September to open his account in English football, have made him a force to be reckoned with for opposition defences and could also perhaps attract the interest of other clubs both in England and in Europe.
Lambert is clearly a fan, not just of the Belgian's goalscoring ability, but also his attitude and application since arriving in Birmingham.
He said: "Benteke is a strong lad, but it's not just about being strong, he's got good ability, which is important. He does get chances. The thing about Christian is he always seems to get a chance whether it's a header or a shot. I've been delighted with him."
With Benteke quickly becoming what Lambert describes as a "fans' favourite" among the Villa Park faithful, it looks likely that the youngster with a bright future will continue to lead the line for a long time to come, with seemingly little chance of Bent being able to force his way past the big striker.
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