25 Aug 2008

The case for Stewart Downing

After the drudgery of two awful premiership performances in a row, it is clear that Liverpool need to sign at least one dedicated winger before the transfer deadline. Stewart Downing is once again in the frame but it seems that many fans just don't want him. However, in my view, Downing could be just the player Liverpool need to bring some much needed balance to the team.

What exactly is the problem with signing Stewart Downing?

Whenever I read fans' views about him all I see are empty generalisations about how he's 'not good enough for Liverpool'.

Many complaints seem to stem from the fact that he doesn't play well for England. Well, if that was the criterion for judging a player's quality then Steven Gerrard would be the deemed the worst footballer in England!

Forget England. What matters is Downing's ability to perform in the premiership and whether he has the potential to step up and improve his game.

Downing is undoubtedly proven in the premiership and most importantly he is a *DEDICATED LEFT WINGER*, something Liverpool desperately need.

Downing may not come with an exciting, world renowned reputation but is that necessarily a bad thing?

Take Harry Kewell for example – before the club signed him he had a huge reputation in the game as an exciting, skilful attacking player. Liverpool fans (myself included) were hugely excited at the prospect of signing such a classy player.

And what happened? Kewell failed miserably at Anfield and looked a shadow of his former self.

Perhaps the opposite will happen with Downing; fans are indifferent to say the least and he comes tainted by the failure Steve McClaren's England. However, perhaps he will confound expectations and develop into an important, skilful component of the team.

Yes, I would love to see the likes of Ricardo Quaresma at Anfield but Rafa has wasted so much time pursuing Gareth Barry that there is precious little time left to go out and sign such players.

Who's to say that Quaresma would be a better option that Downing anyway?

I have yet to see any convincing arguments about why Downing is so wrong for Liverpool. For me, he would be a good signing for the following reasons:

1. He is left footed and a dedicated left winger.

2. He would bring real balance balance to the team.

3. He is premiership proven therefore no settling-in period needed.

4. He is skilful, can take players on and is capable of delivering good crosses.

5. He is only 24, which means his best years are ahead of him.

6. He has consistently shone over the last few years in an average Middlesbrough team to the extent that he is now a regular for England.

7. His game can only improve by playing alongside the likes of Torres, Gerrard Mascheranoetc.

8. Premiership stats over the last 4 years: Averaged 28 games a season. Averaged 5 goals and 5 assists a season. Not bad for a someone playing in a poor team not really renowned for creativity. Playing in a better team with better players, these figures will almost certainly improve.

9. Good attitude. Works hard for the team, devoid of arrogance and not someone who will be plastered all over the gossip rags ala Jermaine Pennant.

10. Moving to Liverpool would boost his confidence and make him super-motivated to do well and improve his game.

With the above in mind, Surely Downing has to be a better option than Dirk Kuyt, Yossi Benayoun, Ryan Babel and (inevitably) Robbie Keane?!

Downing would bring much needed balance to the team whether Liverpool played 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1. Furthermore, Babel could play on the right and consign Kuyt to cameo appearances from the bench.


-------------------- Reina

Carra ----- Skrtl -------- Agger --------- Dossena

Babel --- Gerrard -- Mascherano ---Downing

------------------- Keane -- Torres


-------------------- Reina

Carra ----- Skrtl -------- Agger --------- Dossena

-------------- Masch --- Alonso/Gerrard

-------- Babel --- Gerrard/Keane ----- Downing

--------------------- Torres

If Liverpool invest in a dedicated, creative right sided wide-player and/or another a creative link man in January I can see this team mounting a serious title challenge.

Once again, I have yet to hear any proper explanations as to why Liverpool should not sign Stewart Downing. The only problems I can see are the following:

1. He is played out of position on the right wing. Given Rafa's history of strange selection choices this is certainly a possibility.

2. Rafa forces Downing to defend more than attack, thus neutering his attacking instincts. Again, a definite possibility.

3. The transfer fee. £14m is possibly a couple of million too much. However, I feel that that £14m on Downing is a better investment than £18m on Gareth Barry.

Signing Downing would also fit in with a Liverpool tradition of old that dates back to the Bill Shankly era: signing unfancied players from lower quality teams/leagues and giving them a chance to shine.

Ian Rush was signed from Chester. John Aldridge came from Oxford United. Alan Hansen came from Partick Thistle.

Indeed, some of Liverpool's great wide players of the past came from the lower leagues: Steve Heighway was signed from Skelmersdale United (!). Ray Houghton came from Oxford United. John Barnes came from Watford.

The point is not every player signed has to be a big name – some of Liverpool's most effective players of the past came from nowhere and developed into great team players.

And that is the name of the game: signing players who will enhance the TEAM. In my view, Stewart Downing is definitely a player who will enhance the team and on that basis I hope Liverpool sign him.


  1. simply put; we have Downing, Riera, Pennant / and then you have Silva, Quaresma, Joaquim...signings to set the pulse racing. i'd prefer Babel on the left, with the addition of Quaresma on the right...mesmerizing!!!!!

    zoe from s.a.

  2. You are a very smart and analytical person. Downing is wonderful. He is a good winger no matter what others say. He is fast, can go fast pple, perhaps the weak point is that his crosses are not THAT accurate under pressure, but not everyone is cristiano ronaldo so i think i can accept that.

    There is also just one more change needed for Liverpool.

    Dirk Kuyt needs to be out of the team. its that simple. He sucks, hes wasting a spot, he cant cross, cant dribble, whacks in some random shots which are helpful for a high sch team but for the real deal i think u need to offer more than just "smack the ball as hard as possible into the box and hope for a good deflection to turn it into a gd cross or a goal."

  3. I do like Downing as a footballer, but I always recall a comment made by David Pleat (or some such) during an England performance.

    Downing had come on and was putting in his all - as usual, for such a committed player - but he couldn't beat the full back and get a cross in.

    Pleat (or similar) said that Downing will never succeed at the top level without a)the pace to outrun the full-back or b)a trick to create some space for a cross.

    As far as I can see Downing has neither and perhaps it is too late for him. Maybe he can develop some tricks but it seems that you are either born with that deceptive instinct or you never get it. Maybe that is over-simplifying...

    The bottom line for me is that I don't think he can beat a really top fullback and get a good cross in. A pity though because he is also a fine shot with left and right foot.

    /two pence worth