31 Oct 2011

LFC LEGEND: I thought he was a kick-and-rush specialist, but I was wrong...

Liverpool winger Stewart Downing has struggled to make any significant impact at Anfield so far this season, and his outdated brand of 'kick and rush' football has proved to be consistently ineffective. Despite this, Liverpool legend Ray Houghton inexplicably believes that there's actually a lot more to Downing's game than meets the eye.

Houghton, who won two league titles with Liverpool during Kenny Dalglish's first stint in charge, observed:

"Stewart Downing has a lot more to his game than I thought he had. I thought he was always someone who pushed it past the fullback and then it was a race over who was going to be the quickest...but it looks like he's got a lot more to his game, playing little one-twos, and then there's his partnership with Jose Enrique".

It's good that Downing is getting some high-profile support, but the fact remains that after almost 15 hours of football, he still hasn't scored or provided a single goal assist. Whatever way you try and spin it, this is a poor return for a vastly experience Premier League player.

Houghton has also been impressed with Jose Enrique:

"Enrique is the one who's stood out for me, alongside Suarez. He's settled in very well at left back. It was a problem position for Liverpool but I don't think it is any more. His link up play with Downing and Suarez has been very impressive".

Enrique aside, Liverpool's summer signings haven't really set the world alight yet, but Houghton argues that it's just a matter of settling down and learning to cope with the pressure of playing for such a huge club:

"Whenever you move club, sometimes it takes you a while to settle-in and find your feet,particularly if you go to a big club like Liverpool, with the expectation and the history. Some players can't cope with it straight away, and I think maybe one or two of them are finding that".

As for that coveted 4th place, does Houghton believe Liverpool can do it?

"At the moment, Tottenham look more likely to finish 4th to be honest"

At present, Spurs are a point ahead of Liverpool with a game in hand, so they're clearly in the driving seat. Things can change though, and it's unlikely that Harry Redknapp's team will go the rest of the season without having a bad spell; and when that happens, hopefully Liverpool will be able to capitalise.

Jaimie Kanwar


  1. why are we suprised / i wrote on several boards that his goal and assist record last season was pretty poor,2 or 4 goals and 7 assists i think, he is not getting involved in games we are better starting with bellamy and bringing downing on as sub, i hope of course he shuts me up.

  2. I understand what your saying but i kind of agree with Houghton. For example i was at the Utd game recently and the ball he put in for Dirk Kuyt was quality and its not his fault when others dont capitalise on the chances created, however i feel he could be doing alot more but his link up with Enrique is very promising and hopefully the assists and goals will come soon. If the nets had been an inch taller and wider he would have bagged 2 by now, the one against sunderland and at the weekend when he hit the post against WBA. I think so far hes just been abit unlucky!! Keep faith!!

    As for Tottenham, theyre looking stronger than us so far but im hoping they will come the end of the season drop many points like they did last season.

    I dont think its a straight race between us and tottenham tho as Arsenal have overcome their early season blip and chelsea are going through a mini blip of their own. 

  3. On a different note Jaimie, im not sure but im pretty sure that was the 1st time Agger and Skrtel played together without Carra. Funny how its one of few cleansheets this season.

  4. I hope he shuts you up as well :)

  5. Im sure according to Opta Index or what ever its called Downing Adam and Henderson were in the top 10 for chances created. Not by the fact they scored or actually had the most assists for midfielders but just for chances created, looks like nothings really changed, create a hatful of chances and miss most, i read another article somewhere complaing of our shots to goal ratio, it was something like 129 shots 12 goals. that  a goal every 11 shots. Pretty poor really.

  6. Don't worry, Steward Downing will soon develop himseft into a great player, the Liverpool way. He's got the qualities desired.

  7. If we were to judge a player on goal and assist stats alone then Charlie Adam is a better footballer than Xavi, as he scored more goals and had more assists from their respective position in the central midfield, however we know who the better footballer is.

    To assess Downing we need to look beyond the goal and assists stats as to judge him solely on that would be myopic.

    Firstly, he has provided the team with natural width. He is a left footed player playing on the left in his favoured position. He has given our team balance. He is developing a good undertstanding with Enrique.

    In order to assess his impact on the team I'm goin got compare him to Ashley Young. The stats are from OPTA and are up to 25th October 2011, so a little out of date.

    So far this season in 8 games, Young has 5 assists (1 from set play and 4 from open play). He has created 17 goal scoring chances (3 from set plays and 14 from open play). He has produced 63 crosses, 11 of which were accurate, and his crossing accuracy is 17.5%

    So far this season in 9 games, Downing as ) assists. He has however created 19 goal scoring chances (4 from set plays and 15 from open play) whcih is more than Young. He has produced 60 crosses, 16 of which were accurate, and his crossing accuracy is 26.7%. So Downing is mre accurate than Young, as well as having createe more chances.

    The problem therefore is that Liverpool have been unbelievable wasteful in front of goal. Up to 25th October 2011 we've had 116 shots on goal with only 49 on target. We've has more shots on goal sthan Man Utd, Arsenal and Spurs, but we've scored less than all of them. Our conversion rate on chances is 9% which is pretty poor and our shooting accurcy is on 42%. Worse, than all all the teams around us.

    We're definitely creating the chances and Downing has contributed to that significantly, however we've not been scoring enough. Downing has been let down by poor finishing. He could easily have 4 or 5 assists this season has the finsihing been more clinical and it is defineitly unfair to judge him just on the goals and assists stats.

  8. 'I'm not sure but I'm pretty sure'  lol

    They have played together before.

  9. Should have said 'correct me if im wrong but'

    Few and far between i would say though if have.

  10. We should get jan klaas huntelaar and reunite him with Suarez they had a great partnership at Ajax and he would finish off Downings and everyone elses crosses. 

  11. Well well if every one is brilliant then why are we struggling..

    If the players are faultless then may be its KING KENNY who is the problem

  12. Where would Carroll play

  13. Downing's Opta stats for Shot Assists is 20 this season

    Opta state that he has created 20 goalscoring opportunities for his team mates

    It's not spin. If we are going to quote stats on here then we should use the most reliable source and that is Opta

    Downing not resposible for Kuyt and Henderson missing gilt edged chances he gave them to win against Man United

    We have been too wasteful

  14. Just had competition upfront where we are failing and who better then a player other then Forlan who knows Suarez's game and an experienced striker as well now played in Spain,Italy and Germany,and of cause plays with Kuyt in the Dutch team so we could kill 2 birds with one stone and could still play with Carroll as well upfront.More of a striker who would suit Downing and wingers like Kuyt . Manchester clubs are rotating 2 strikers with Rooney mainly Welbeck and Hernandez and City with Aguero with Balotelli or Dezko anymore and it causes unrest strikers like to be playing.

  15. I agree that Downing's shot assists are good, but shot assists include any pass to a player whose next action is to shoot. That can be anything from passing the ball to a player who then shoots from 40 yards out, to laying off a pass on the 18 yard line, which then leads to a shot and a save by the keeper.

    20 shot assists does not automatically mean 20 great chances created; it just means Downing passed to someone and then they shot.

    The most compelling statistic is that he hasn't scored or created a goal in over 14 hours of football. It's not good enough.

    As a comparison, Maxi Rodriguez has one goal and one assist in his two games this season, yet he can't get a start for love nor money.

  16. If we were to judge a player on goal and assist stats alone then Charlie Adam is a better footballer than Xavi, as he scored more goals and had more assists from their respective position in the central midfield, however we know who the better footballer is.

    I don't think that's a comparison anyone would ever make, and I also don't think people generally judge a player's overall quality based on only goals or assists.

    Overall performance is obviously taken into consideration but when you get down to brass tacks, there are certain key things every player must be achieving in their position to be considered successful.

    If a striker goes 14 hours without scoring then the fact he's had 100 shots is ultimately irrelevant. Almost scoring doesn't win games; almost scoring doesn't win trophies; a striker's principal role is to score goals, and if he doesn't score goals, he's failing.

    A goalkeeper's principal role is to stop goals being conceded. If a goalkeeper makes lots of saves but his team has still conceded the most goals in the league then he is failing.

    In Downing's case, his principal role in the team is to create and score goals. He is not doing that, so no matter how you try and dress it up, he is failing at his job. Who cares how many crosses he's completed, or how many passes he's made - the bottom line is he hasn't scored or created any goals.

    If the blip had only lasted a few games then his chance-creation stats would have some relevance; every player goes through barren spells every now and again. However, when the blip extends to 11 games and over 14 hours of football, using shot-assists as some kind of justification for failing to score or create just doesn't cut it.

  17. Jamie I am with you on the ineffectiveness of Downing for the role he is supposed to be playing.. He was expensively brought in to improve on 10 goal Maxi but he has not scored or assisted yet.
    Many will say he is still bedding in though Suarez and Enrique were not held back by this despite both of them being relatively inexperienced in the premiership as opposed to a veteran premier league campaigner like Downing having made his premiership debut in 2002  accumulating 257 appearances.
    His present Liverpool record mirrors his England career where he is yet to score in 30 internationals even though wingers are supposed too chip in with goals. 
    Where Maxi scored 10 goals in 28 games last season which was also his first full season with Liverpool, Downing has only managed 9 goals in his 63 game Aston Villa career.
    He also has a total of 29 league in 261 games spanning a decade something that really proves it is no surprise he is not scoring because he has never been prolific. His biggest season tally was 9 goals for Boro in 07/08 and then he got 7 for Villa last season.
    Ashley Young on the other hand has 32 goals in 165 premier league games meaning he has scored 3 more than Downing despite playing nearly 100 less games.
    Another interesting aspect of the club as a whole seems to be that nearly all the wingers from rival top 4 sides either have score more than one goal or have more than one assist while Liverpool's Henderson is the only winger to have a goal to his credit.
    Of course there is the theory about chance creation but that also means Pepe is our biggest chance creater since he initiates many of our moves or the simple fact that when Carra hoofs upfield and is lucky to pick out our player, that becomes a chance creation even though the intention was to clear the ball as far away from our half as possible.

  18. "Liverpool legend Ray Houghton inexplicably believes that there's actually a lot more to Downing's game than meets the eye".

    Nothing inexplicable about it Jaimie. Downing's career did not start 15 hrs ago at Liverpool

  19. The example of comparing Adam and Xavi was obviously hyperbole to show how ridiculous it is to judge a footballer on just shot and assists stats which is what you have done in your piece. You talk of no other stats that those. I have given a much more comprehensive assessment of what he doing on the pitch and it shows is that he is doing an ok job at the moment. Its not great at the moment but it it shows that he is more than capable of producing the good and with a bit of time and patience from us fans he will produce it. He's been a little unlucky, 3 shots have hit the woodwork, a number of crosses which could have lead to goals have been well saved or the chances have been wasted. With a little bit of luck that will change in the coming weeks.

    There is clearly room for improvement but the overall stats and his overall play show that he is contributing to the chances that we are creating. 

  20. Gary - I don't need to provide a comprehensive assessment of everything Downing does on the pitch; the number of crosses he gets in is irrelevant, as is the number of shooting chances he creates. It means nothing if there is no specific, measurable end product, and as I've argued, Downing's job is to create and score goals, and so far he has failed.

    When we assess players, we don't look back and say 'Yes, Downing was a great player for a Liverpool. Throughout his career, he got 100 crosses in! Amazing, eh!"

    Players are judged on the their specific, measurable impact specific to their position, and Downing has added nothing concrete to the team so far.

    There has to come a point where people just drop the excuses and accept that Downing is not doing his job. If he goes 3-4 or even 5 games without scoring or creating, then you can point to his stats and highlight that he's getting crosses in and it's just not happening; when it gets to 11 games and 15 hours of football, the time for excuses is over, and the reality has to be faced.

  21. Hang so let me get this straight.. If a winger provides say 10 crosses per game on average that allows the receiving player of said cross to shoot on goal but misses then its the wingers fault?

    So are we saying if a winger only provides 1 cross in the entire game that successfully finds a player who is able to shoot from that cross and they score they are the better winger?

    I always thought the primary role of a winger was to provide crosses that allow another player a shooting opportunity or have I got this wrong?

  22. It depends on the nature of the cross. Any winger can just hoof crosses into the box; accuracy is what matters, and the Dirk Kuyt cross aside, I can't think of many clear-cut chances created by Downing. If anyone can remember some clearcut chances Downing has created (apart from Kuyt's) then please list them.

    If a winger provides quality balls that create genuine goal-scoring chances then the player on the end of it is more likely to score. It can't always be the other player's fault; Downing's final pass has just not been good enough. The most damning statistic is 11 games played, no goals or assists.

  23. "In Downing's case, his principal role in the team is to create and score goals. He is not doing that, so no matter how you try and dress it up, he is failing at his job. Who cares how many crosses he's completed, or how many passes he's made - the bottom line is he hasn't scored or created any goals."

    Again a very short-sighted view. He is creating chances but they aren't being scored. He's had shots on target, hit the woodwork 3 times, but they haven't gone in for him. Had 2 of those shots that hit the post gone in we wouldn't be having his discussion as a 2 goal return for a winger from 11 games would be considered fine. Had Kuyt scored against Man Utd, or had Suarez scored against Norwich, Downing would have a few assists so we wouldn't be having this discussion either.

    The problem is the quality of finshing and the wasted chances, and this isn;t exactly Downing's fault. If he's putting chances on a plate but our strikers are missing them then that is the striker's fault not Downing as he is doing his job of creating.  

    If Downing wasn't creating opportunities then we would have a problem. BUt he is, so as a creator he is doing his job. It is the strikers who aren;t doing ethir job properly. A conversion rate of 10% of goal scoring opportunities isn;t good enough.

  24. Yet another example of not see the wood through the trees JK. Chances created is relevant because it shows how wasteful our strikers have been. If Downing puts the ball into the six yard box but the striker still misses then who has failed at their "job"? Downing has created he opportunity, which is his role as a winger, but if our striker misses from 6 yards then what else can Downing do.

    I'm not disagreeing that Downing can improve but I don't think it's fair to say that he isn't playing well or doing his job. The team as a whole is missing far to many chance./ If Downing is creating these chances, which he is, then we need to look at our finishing rather than saying Downing isn't doing his job.

  25. Gary - I think you're putting too much emphasis on these alleged 'chances' that Downing has created. Are you suggesting that he has created 15+ genuine goalscoring chances, and the that on every occasion, another player has failed to convert? I don't think this is true. I bet you'd be hard-pressed to list 5 genuine clearcut chances created by Downing for other LFC players, and I mean chances laid on a plate. I'll give you one: the Dirk Kuyt cross.

    4 more...?

  26. Apart from the first match with Sunderland, Downing has been poor. In fact his performances for England in the last few months have been below average.  

    Let's compare him to Bellamy and Craig trounces him so FAR and a clear indication that Downing's below par.For me Bellamy has been our best player this season, rarely gives the ball away, high pass completion, wins tackles, has scored goals and has a few assists to his name.  His first touch is excellent and if Suarez gets injured Bellamy we can rely on.On another note, I believe Suarez first touch lets him down during games, he needs to improve in this area which could lead to more goals for him.  

  27. That's the only one that anybody points out for a reason - it is the only clear chance that should've been a Downing assist. Chance creation is another arbitrary statistic as far as I'm concerned and should not be used to look past what is so obvious to our eyes - Downing simply has not consistently been a creative force for us so far.

  28. To me Enrique has been far more creative than Downing so far - what are his stats??

  29. He's almost missed 4 decent goal scoring chances which people fail to mention!

  30. And I think you're putting to much emphasis on specific measurable impact, a term which you've made up that hold no relevance in football outside of this website. We'll have to agree to disagree.

    I am not suggesting he has created 15+ goalscoring opportunities that have been laid on a plate. Some are half chances but all the same, Downing is getting the ball into the right areas. There is absolutely no denying that.

    The Kuyt cross was obviously the most memorable as it was against Man Utd, a minute after they'd scored and it could have won us the game. Downing also put in a very good cross for Henderson. It was a difficult header but if it was on target it would have gone in.

    In the Norwich game, Downing played in 3 excellent balls to Suarez, Kuyt and Bellamy. All very good crosses to them unmarked on the six yard line. All should have done better, especially Suarez.

    In the Stoke game Downing put in a good cross for Bellamy but it was a weak header that went wide. It wasn't an easy chance but Bellamy could have made more of it. 

    If even two of those crosses had lead to a goal (which they easily could have been with more clinical finishing) we wouldn't be discussing this now. Fine margins.

    Apart from his crossing he had 2 shots hitting the woodwork, against Sunderland and WBA. With a bit of luck they could have been goals.  In the Bolton game it was Downing who got on the end of that amazing Suarez pass with the outside of the foot. It was an excellent run behind the defence and a great volley from Downing. Jaaskelainen made an excellent save which was parried to Kuyt who then set up Henderson to score.

    That's five examples of good crosses into the box which the strikers could have done better on, which means that he is getting the ball into the right areas. He could gave also have had 3 goals this season.

    Its all about fine margins, plus we're wasting far too many chances this season.

  31. JK, can I ask why my post from about 10pm tonight has been deleted? Any chance its because I gave 5 examples of Downing putting in a good cross and the finishing not being good enough. Or maybe the 3 chances where he was very unlucky not to score.

    Absolutely ridiculous that you have to resort to censoring and editing posts instead of actual debate.

    And don't tell me I've made a mistake or not posted properly as I clearly saw it posted but it has since been removed.

  32. Oops its there now. Can you delete this post please. My post has appeared again.

  33. Your post has not 'appeared again' - it was always there, and was never removed.

  34. It has reappeared again and has been edited. So much for free speech eh JK.

  35. If you can't post your views without including pointless sniping comments then don't post at all.

  36. It wasn't a snipe and it wasn't a pointless comment. You contineu to put emphasis on specific measurable impact, a term you have coined, which outside of this site has no relevance to football. And you disregard other stats that are used widely in football because it flies in the face of your argument. Created chances is a stat that is used by OPTA and the EPL Index, is used by clubs to analyse their players and is one of the reasons we brought players like Downing, Henderson and Adam, who were all in the top 10 last season for chances created. Is it a coincidence that we are now creating on average 15 chances per game, which is much more than we have in previous seasons. Our weakness at the moment is our inability to covert these chances; we're far to wasteful.

    Downing is one cog in the team. There is absolutely no doubt that he can improve individually, I haven't denied that an any point. But anyone with a  bit of knowledge about the game can see what he has added to the team. He has added balance to the team, he has created space for our forwards by being an out an out left winger and not being a player who always cuts onto their right foot as we have had in the past. He has developed a good understanding with Enrique on the left and 38% of our attacking is now down on the left hand side, whereas a lot of it in past season has been down the right because we didn't have a good enough player on the left. As a team we are creating much more than we have in the last few season and Downing has contributed to all of this. Why do I know this, because I have looked at all parts of his game, not just his specific measurable impact.  

    I don't have latent hostility to this site by the way. I just don't agree with you most of the time becaue I believe you have a very myopic view of football.  Thats not hostility towards you or this site. People disagree, you just need to deal with it.

  37. Gary, perhaps you should start thinking for yourself instead of just relying on what other people/organisations say...?

    I couldn't care less whether Opta et al use the created chances stat; in reality, it is completely and utterly irrelevant when it comes to assessing the *specific* impact of a player over a long period of time. Downing's job is to score and create goals; he hasn't done that for 15 hours of football. That is the only stat that matters, and no amount of spin or dressing it up with pointless ancillary stats will change that.

    Who cares if 38% of Liverpool's attacks come down the right if there's no end product to show for it?! If Liverpool don't finish in the top 4, do you think an acceptable excuse will be 'Look on the bright side, at least 55% of our attacks came down the left!'

    In the cold light of day, that's the truth. It doesn't make it better just because he's created some chances. For someone who cost £20m, and has played hundreds of PL games, we should be expecting a better return. Instead, we get people like you who try and blame other players for Downing's failings, which is wrong.

    Downing is to blame for failing to make an impact; not Suarez, Kuyt or Carroll. Any other decent winger would've scored or created a couple of goals by now, and we know that to be true because every other decent winger in the league HAS done just that.

    You go on about what Downing has added to the team, but the truth he hasn't added *anything* to the team. So far this season, we've drawn three winnable home games and lost two away games, one of them being a 4-0 hammering to Spurs. What did Downing add to the team for those games?! Those games - especially the draws - are where we should see his impact, but there's been nothing.

    Downing will only start adding something to the team when there is a specific, measurable end product, i'e' when he starts scoring and creating goals. Goals win points; goals win trophies; almost scoring and almost creating goals wins NOTHING, and history does not remember those that almost achieve something in football.

  38. All hail Gary, the exemplar of everything a good fan should be. Gosh, you seriously need to get off your high horse. 11 games without a goal or an assist for a player with Downing's Prem league experience is unacceptable, whether you like it or not.

    Downing has not made the team better. Player that have a specific, measurable impact in their positions make the team better. Downing has not done that. Suarez makes a difference; Adam makes a difference; Lucas makes a difference; Enrique makes a difference; Henderson occasionally makes a difference; Downing does not.

    As I've argued before, if a barren spell lasts 3, 4 or even 5 games then you can look at stats like chance-creation and make excuses. When it runs to 11 games, that is a problem, and the excuses have to stop. Eventually, the player has to take personal responsibility and start doing their job, or make way for someone else who WILL make an impact.

    I have no doubt that if Craig Bellamy had played 11 games in place of Downing, he'd have more goals and assists. That's already true anyway - Bellamy has two goals in 245 minutes of football, which amounts to one goal every 2.7 games.

    The plain fact is this: If you take Downing out of the team for the last 11 games then nothing changes; the results are still the same because he has had no impact on goals or assists.

    However, if you take him out of the last 11 games and replace him with Bellamy, or even Maxi, then there is a strong chance that Liverpool's results might be even better because his replacement might actually do their job and provide a couple of goals/assists.

    You can say what you like about specific, measurable impact, but at the end of the day, that is the only approach that matters when it comes assessing players. And it is not just me who uses it; everyone does, it's just called something else.

    Tell me this: when anyone in football, whether its media, ex-footballers, writers, fans etc discuss a player's career, how do they assess it? If it's a striker, what is the very first statistic that is discussed? GOALS. A striker's job is to score goals; the scoring of goals = specific, measurable impact on the team.

    When we talk about Ian Rush, we don't say 'What a great player - he had 3000 chances during his Liverpool career!'. We say 'Great striker - he scored 346 goals for Liverpool during his career.

    With every player, the most important statistic is that which relates to specific measurable impact, and those are the stats that are remembered.

  39. My high horse?! I'm not the one who has his own website and who is arrogant enough to believe that their opionion is worthy of being published to the public.  (by the way, if you remove this comment then you have to remove your sarcastic comments at the start of your post - the sniping rules should surely be for both)

    Thank you for using the Ian Rush example by the way as it perfectly exemplifies your narrow view of footballers. You say 346 goals - great striker. I say 346 goals, excellent and tireless work ethic, defending from the front, fantastic movement, ability to find space - great striker.

    In 50 years times when someone looks at the stats of Lampard and Gerrard, and they see that Lampard scored more goals and had more assists, will he be considered the better footballer. Your emphasis on the specific measurable impact would tell us he is, but if you have seen them both play and saw what they actually did on the pitch you would know that Gerrard was the better all round footballer.

    I do sometime wonder whether you actually watch games or whether you just look at the stats later and say "ooh he got a assist today, he must have played well".

    If you can't see the positive impact that Downing has had on the team then there really is no point in discussing this matter any further, as you clearly cannot see past the stats. I won't be able to change your view and you won't be able to change mine. As I've stated time and time again, there is clearly room for improvement. The stats don't look great on paper: but he has been a positive addition to the team and I believe he has made us a better team.

  40. Jaimie you are a horrible writer all u ever do is criticize the team and give biased information. You never provide any insightful information or recommendations for improvement.