Arsène Wenger monitored Christian Benteke in the Belgian league and said he was surprised the striker signed for Aston Villa from Genk for £7m on transfer deadline day.
The Arsenal manager, who will face Benteke at Villa Park in Saturday's late kick-off, did not elaborate on the reasons for his surprise but he made it clear that he was an admirer of the 21-year-old's powerful style. Wenger signed Olivier Giroud from Montpellier for £13m earlier in the summer and noted the centre-forward had similarities to Benteke.
"We have looked at Benteke, yes," Wenger said. "It was interesting. I was surprised when he signed at Villa. We had already signed Giroud. Giroud had a [buy-out] clause in his contract, so that was an easy decision. When a guy has a clause, you can do it as quickly as you want.
"Benteke gave Manchester United a rough time [two weeks ago]. He is, completely, a typical English-style centre-forward, which has disappeared a little bit. But you still have players like [Grant] Holt [at Norwich City], who are typical English centre-forwards. Benteke is one of them."
The Belgium international was quoted last week as saying that "Arsenal are the club I love," and suggesting that Villa were a stepping stone on his career path. The Villa manager, Paul Lambert, argued that the player had been "misrepresented". Benteke has become popular at Villa Park and has scored four goals in 11 appearances.
"He has scored some important goals with complete power," Wenger said. "Belgium produces players. Maybe they are a championship that we give not enough credit. We say: 'OK, he is doing well but he is in Belgium.' But you see when they move out. Look at the number of players they have produced recently: [Mousa] Dembélé, [Eden] Hazard, [Axel] Witsel. We don't speak about the guys that we know here like [Thomas] Vermaelen or now [Jan] Vertonghen. Maybe it's a championship that we have to look a little bit deeper in."
Wenger is delighted at the impact that Giroud has made. He rates him as the best striker he has had in terms of aerial ability and the France international, who has scored seven goals for the club, has given Arsenal a new dimension.
"When you cross the ball, you think you have a chance to win the header whereas before it was a counterattack chance," Wenger said, with a smile. "He still has work to do but he convinces you about something more than just his game. He is a fighter, he is ready to have a go, he is genuine. People smell that in the stands, that's why I feel he is accepted. He, too, is typically English. He has the characteristics of a centre-forward I like in England."