14 July 2011

On Stewart Downing

Done deal subject to a medical, announced on the official site last night.

Downing has been consistently good in the league for more than five years, whether as the big fish, small pond focal point of UEFA Cup runners-up Boro or outshining the more-hyped Ashley Young as Villa's Player of the Season last campaign. Eight days away from turning 27, he's entering the prime of his career, contrary to Liverpool's supposed focus on developing diamonds.

Like Adam (and Carroll), he's another left foot in a squad that desperately lacked them. Like Henderson, he's versatile; Downing can get chalk on his boots on the left or cut in from the right, where he spent most of last season and notched seven goals and nine assists.

The easy comparison is Downing's a rich man's Riera – the last true left winger on Liverpool's books. Each's willingness to whip in crosses and well-rounded game are the most tangible similarities, but Downing's better in every regard, most notably in his aforementioned versatility and knack for scoring at the back post. For example, his winner against Liverpool just two months ago (see also: Stoke, West Brom, and Wolves, among others). Also, he doesn't seem a self-absorbed, selfish, teen-punching shithead.

This article from Football 365 spells out what Downing can add to Liverpool, even if it features the dreaded, often-misused Moneyball concept, as well some insightful stats from Opta.

135 - Stewart Downing has completed more crosses in open play than any other player in the Premier League over the last three seasons. Whip.

34.4 - Stewart Downing has averaged 34.4 appearances over the past five Premier League seasons. Reliable.

Not enough stats? More from Opta's Twitter feed? How about:

421 - Since Aug 2004, only 4 players (Lampard, Fabregas, Gerrard & Giggs) have created more PL chances than Stewart Downing. Craftsman.

56% - Downing, Adam & Henderson created 239 chances in the PL last season, equivalent to 56% of Liverpool's 2010-11 total (429). Blueprint.

243 - Only Leighton Baines (247) fired over more crosses in open play than Stewart Downing in the 2010-11 Premier League. Supply.

40 - Since August 2004, Stewart Downing & Steven Gerrard have both assisted 40 Premier League goals. Homologous.

In theory, Downing's talents will be seamlessly symbiotic with Liverpool's gargantuan number nine, his crosses pollinating Carroll's field of colossal headers. He fills a gaping, obvious hole in Liverpool's growing panorama of abilities and can play in the 4-3-3 or 4-2-2-2 I suggested after Adam's signing or the 4-2-3-1 we saw in the Guangdong friendly.

~£19m, give or take a million, represents a substantial investment. As did ~£8m for Adam or ~£16m for Henderson. Liverpool fans have become well aware that vaunted Premier League experience comes at a steep premium, especially when UK passports are involved. But after Hicks and Gillett's criminal parsimony, we can't complain when the manager gets his man, no matter the number of zeros sent in the opposite direction.

That was the case with Suarez, Carroll, Henderson, and Adam. And it's the case with Stewart Downing.

Quick update: Respected journalists (and I don't use those two words together often) Gabriele Marcotti and Tony Evans have both mooted Downing at left wing-back. So is the following formation feasible?

Seems a stronger, more attacking version of the 3-4-2-1 or 3-5-2 played against Stoke and Chelsea respectively.


James said...

What's great about that 3-5-2? That it leaves a possible bench including Kuyt, Rodriguez, Henderson, Meireles (fingers crossed), Aquilani (fingers crossed), Skrtel and a goalie. Possibilities.

agray1444 said...

I love the prospect of three man back lines. Especially if we are in the works for a new center-back and wing-back. A 3-4-3 would appeal very well to me with:

Kelly Carragher Agger

Henderson Lucas Gerrard Downing

Suarez Carroll Kuyt

repthe901 said...

Kelly instead of Skrtel?

skinny65 said...

I love the signing but at what point are we going to start selling some of these guys that are never going to play? Seems like we need to ship out 4-5 guys pretty damn quick.

vinnie said...

Never really watched downing play and been always skeptical about him but after looking at a few stats, they really speak for himself. not flashy but gets his job done