Christian Benteke 'is just getting better' warns Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert

The Villains take on Arsenal this weekend

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has sent an ominous warning to Barclays Premier League defenders that striker Christian Benteke will be an even more fearsome proposition this season.

Lambert's main summer coup has been the retention of his powerful Belgian forward, who submitted a transfer request before changing his mind despite interest from so-called bigger clubs.

Benteke made a huge impact last term, scoring 19 league goals and running defenders ragged with his hefty physique, technical ability and scoring touch. Lambert believes the 22-year-old will be even more dangerous this season as he prepares for tomorrow's opener at Arsenal.

"Looking at him since he's come back from his break and the games he's played he's been excellent," said the Scot.

"He's not lost his goalscoring exploits. To me, Christian is just getting better.

"He's grown in confidence a lot. He's a big, big athlete and a really top footballer.

"I'm not going to put levels of expectancy on him. If he goes out and tries his best and gives it everything he's got then I think that's all you can ever ask of anybody. He'll have his own standards and his own heights that he wants to achieve. Looking at him at this moment in time, in pre-season and in training, he's ready for it."

Despite Villa's fraught season last year, when they were relegation candidates throughout until a late push saw them beat the drop, many fans are talking about a top-10 finish this campaign.

Lambert is wary of setting such lofty targets.

"I don't know," he said. "You never can predict anything about what's going to happen next season.

"I certainly hope it won't be as tough as last season.

"You give it a right good go. I'm excited by it, I can't wait to get going.

"We can't start games the way we did at times last year. We've got to be bang at it from that first minute. You don't have time in this league to bed yourself in 15 minutes or so.

"We have to be ready and I think that's the big thing that we've learned. We have to be right on it straight away."

The former Celtic and Borussia Dortmund player is understandably enthusiastic about the new campaign.

"You always do have that excitement," he said. "When you're traveling down to London you know you're going to be involved in it and once you get to the stadium it really starts to kick in.

"You'll either be excited about it or you'll go and give it a right go so we'll go there with no fear and we'll try to win. We've got a threat, that's the big thing."

Lambert is set to be without midfielders Yacouba Sylla and Chris Herd against Arsenal tomorrow.

PA

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