15 Mar 2013

Lawro insists: £20m LFC star is 'like Emile Heskey'. Praise or insult...?

Liverpool winger Stewart Downing has transformed his Liverpool career over the last few months, and on current form, he's arguably the club's most improved player this season. Like many other Reds fans - myself included - Anfield legend Mark Lawrenson is a a regular critic of the much-maligned midfielder, but in his column today for the Liverpool Daily Post, Lawro heaps (deserved) praise on the £20m man.

Last year, Lawro accused Downing of 'lacking commitment' on the field, but in his column today, he took a different view:

"Stewart Downing [has] excelled of late.

"I don’t think I’ve ever known quite a more effective confidence player. When he starts a game well, Downing can be brilliant. When he doesn’t start well, he retreats into his shell. He’s like Emile Heskey but with more ability"

Lawro appears to be saying that Downing is the most effective confidence player he's ever seen, which is high praise indeed, but I doubt he'll be too flattered by the Heskey comparison though (!)

There is, admittedly, some merit to the Heskey comparison. The similarly-maligned Heskey was also a confidence player, but when the self-belief flowed, he produced some fantastic performances, especially in his first full season at Anfield (2000-2001), when he grabbed 22 goals in all competitions.

Downing suffered the ignominy of failing to score or create a single goal in his debut season for Liverpool, and irrespective of the reasons why, that was an unacceptable return. However, with 5 goals and 4 assists so far this year - including two goals in the last two games - Downing is finally contributing to the cause, something Lawro acknowledges:

"He's a great crosser of the ball, knows how to do a job defensively and is now weighing in with a couple of goals. You can never say Downing doesn’t put in a shift, but sometimes doesn’t come up with enough end product. He is addressing that now"

In 2008, I wrote an article titled 'The Case for Stewart Downing', in which I laid out ten reasons why he'd be a good signing for Liverpool. They were:

1. Left footed and a dedicated left winger.
2. Would bring real balance balance to the team.
3. Premiership proven therefore no settling-in period needed.
4. Skilful, can take players on and capable of delivering good crosses.
5. Only 24, which means his best years are ahead of him.
6. Consistently shone in an average Middlesbrough team.
7. His game will improve playing alongside the likes of Torres, Gerrard etc.
8. Averaged 5 goals and 5 assists a season playing in a poor team.
9. Good attitude. Works hard for the team. Devoid of arrogance.
10. LFC move would boost his confidence and motivated him to improve.

Reading that article again last season, I thought I'd got it horribly wrong (and people constantly reminded me of that), but now, it seems that Downing finally matches the player described in the ten points above, which is great for Liverpool.

Downing's end product, however, still needs to improve. Including the last two goals, He's contributed only 3 goals in the last 25 games, and that's not consistent enough (IMO) to justify a starting place next season.

There are nine league games left this year, and although it seems strange to suggest this given his good form, I believe Downing is still fighting for his Liverpool future.

I doubt that Brendan Rodgers is satisfied with a return 3 goals in 25 games, and if Downing doesn't score/create at least 5 more goals before the end of the season, he'll probably be sacrificed this summer.

As I always argue, for an attacking player, end product is all that matters, and if Liverpool can get another winger in who scores/creates more frequently than Downing, then that is definitely the way to go.

It's all in Downing's hands. Will he deliver and save his Anfield career...?

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  1. Agree. He's really performed well in the last few months but that has to continue to the end of the season. If he continues in this form and with another couple of goals and assists we should keep him. Two factors which will also determine his future are his age and salary, i.e. he's probably one of the biggest earners and does he justify that given focus on wanting to get value from players.

  2. yes, I agree with all of those points. on paper he looked a good buy. a nightmare scenario unfolded in front of our eyes. we saw a competent player destroyed by the pressure of playing for lfc. He has seemed to snap out of that and hopefully will be the stronger for it.

    I agree with jamie though, his recent performance is the minimum we should expect. If that drops off then we he shouldn't be in the team

  3. You have to remember Downing had 5-10 games at left back which may make his end product look a bit worse for what it actually is

  4. Nice piece JK,
    i agree that Downing has improved but let not forget its hard to fall of the floor which last season was where his LFC career was at. it would take IMO Downing to have man of the match performances and score freely between now and the end of the season to save his position at the club. a few swallows don't make a summer, hopefully i am dead wrong and he excels I just don't think i've seen enough improvement from him yet to warrant his continued presence at LFC. Basically C'mon Downing prove us doubters wrong.

  5. downing as excelled this season and as been one of the top 5 performers hope rogers as not got him in one of his envolopes

  6. Well in regards, to Downing, I'm sitting on the fence. He has definitely improved, but unsure whether he's done enough to warrant a future at lfc. But I'm going to discuss another interesting topic. In a recent team popularity survey, liverpool didn't even rank among the top 5 supported clubs in the world. It goes Man utd (unsurprisingly with 350 m), barca (270 m), real madrid (174 m), chelsea (135 m) and arsenal (114 m). I'm actually surprised that, a) barca are infront of madrid, and b) liverpool are behind arsenal and chelsea. I don't know how accurate this really is, as you could argue these stats are heavily distorted by a lot of 'glory hunters' (especially with chelsea; man utd would still probably win this without the plastic fans), which doesn't reflect the amount of true fans these clubs have, as before chelsea's rise, liverpool certainly had a lot more fans.

    It's interesting, because in my local sports shop (rebel sport for any aussies/kiwis on here), 2 whole racks of merchandise are dedicated to liverpool and man utd, whereas teams like chelsea and arsenal get limited rack space. but mainly, it's interesting because, club legends and fans alike boast about liverpool being the second biggest, if not biggest club in england, and being massive world wide, yet we don't sit even sit among the top 5 here. Are we as big as we really think?

  7. (Love the layout, hopefully it will stay)

    I remember reading that article Jamie! Wow time flies!

    Downing has played well in recent months, just shows that BR is not a clueless as some fans think. However he needs to be consistent and deliver the goods more but overall I have been pleasantly surprised by his contribution.

    I still think he offers allot more than Sterling did. Although young Raheem as BR would say did well enough.

  8. I was thinking bout that the other day, it would be funny if he had Gerrard, Suarez and Agger in them.

  9. Well you have stated many fair reasons as to why, despite last season, Downing is still a good player. However you contradict yourself if you insist on the opinion that 'end product is all that matters'.

    For the last few months, Downing has consistently worked hard and well for the team, and only in the last 2 games has he been rewarded with goals. Downing's career goal tally is far from impressive, so I don't understand why most people expect so much more 'end product'.

    Someone like Coutinho can walk into the team and instantly create/score goals, but Coutinho will never cover as much grass as the likes of Downing, Suarez, Hendo or Lucas...

    I think you underestimate all the other positive effects players can have on a team. You've judged players like Sterling, Downing and Hendo only on 'end product' - And if players such as Downing and Hendo are 'sacrificed' in the summer, it's just a massive step backwards for me.

  10. We should not sell Downing, he has shown he can be a useful member of the squad. We need to add to the squad and stop selling players who show ability.
    LFC is a MASSIVE club, players don't realize until they start playing for the club.
    The shock to Downing system has started to decrease which is why he has started performing, for me he is a player who when he is confident he can be an asset for the club.
    Let's add to our sqaud and sort out our defence first, that my main concern going forward!

  11. Theycallmemrburt11:59 am, March 15, 2013

    when Lawro says "i've never known quite a more effective confidence player" I think he means Downing epitomises what a confidence player is, not necessarily that Downng is the greatest confidence player he has ever seen.

    Downing is an old fashioned get a yard and whip it in type winger. The game has evolved now where wide players or more playmaker than winger. Teams who just throw the ball in the box at every opportunity are usually just turning over possesion as the cross to goals covervision rate throughout the league is pretty poor.

    If downing is scoring consistently then he's a potential asset but when he does'nt score his game offers little else offensively. we'll get very little for Downing now with Middlesborough the only team who wanted to take him in Jan. I say keep him the way Man U kept Berba and Anderson. They were never as spectacular or productive as Fergie thought but at the same time they did just enough.

  12. Well I don't know if your being sarcastic or not, but I think the envelopes were designed to create self doubt..."I'm in the envelope I better improve or leave" - Or there were actually players in there and they have most likely been sold, Charlie Adam for example, or Hendo/Downing who could of left the club.

  13. Hey I'm from Sydney...I've noticed now more and more kids are supporting United, more than ever, and if they are always winning then I think that's only natural. I think the majority of the LFC supporter base in Australia grew up in or witnessed Liverpool's success in the 70s and 80s. And the minority like me who are a bit younger, but for whatever reason have always supported Liverpool.

    Also, I know many people who support LFC, Arsenal, Chelsea and United, but only a handfull of Spurs supporters, and only one Everton, Newcastle and QPR supporter. Generally the bigger/more successful the clubs are, the more supporters they will have from here, because there's no local teams or anything, you just kind of pick a team when you are young and stick with them...But thats just my view.

  14. I agree that there are other less tangible things a player can bring to a team other than goals assists, but when all is said and done, an attacking winger's primary purpose is to score/create goals, is it not?

    Who cares how much grass they cover? If Coutinho grabs 15 goals and 15 assists next season, do you really think Rodgers - or fans - will care that he doesn't run 50 miles a game? Conversely, last season, Downing may have covered more grass than most, but he contributed zilch, which is a major problem.

  15. If he doesn't perform between now and he end of the season, at least he's been in shop window, and I'm sure there are clubs out there who like what they've seen.

  16. Hey mate. Thanks for sticking with the site for so long, much appreciated :-) I agree that he offers more than Sterling at the moment. I know some fans stil groan when they see Downing's name on the team-sheet, but I don't feel that way anymore. Definitely still need someone else; another experienced player with more consistent end product.

  17. Yeah I'm from Sydney too (the southern area). I'm sure when Liverpool returns to success, we'll be in that top 5. United won't be number one forever though.

  18. Good point about Downing being 'old fashioned'. It seems that KD bought several of these types of players, i.e. players who belong in a different era of football. Downing the old-fashioned kick and rush winger; Carroll the 'hoof it into the box' english centre-forward, and perhaps even Jordan Henderson, an good old fashioned 'huff and puff' midfielder.

  19. In principle JK I agree with you, but that's a very simplistic way of looking at things. Downing has been one of our best performers recently without scoring any goals. He contributes to many attacking plays, he presses (how he scored his goal v Spurs) and he gets back to defend. If Suarez didn't hassle defenders they would be able to play out of the back with ease, if Hendo didn't press the opposition they could at times walk right through us. If you play with a team of Adel Taraabt's you'd get beat more often than not.

  20. When LFC launched their twitter site for Australia or something I heard we have one of the largest LFC supporter bases in the world, but I think United dominates a lot of Asia, which is why they could be top

  21. not being sarcastic but i bet he would have shipped downing and henderson out given the chance garuntee borinni and allen were not in them

  22. it's definitely why!

  23. Downing may have been one of the club's best performers, but over a season, if he's only scoring 3 goals every 25 games, that doesn't ultimately help. If players like Downing scored/created goals more consistently, LFC might be 4th right now instead of struggling to maintain a top 6 position.

  24. Theycallmemrburt12:59 pm, March 15, 2013

    The second coming of kenny was a chance for us to finally put to rest the ghost of LFC football past from casting its mighty shadow. Kenny's return succeeded in some ways and failed in others, SO GREAT we got that out of our system.

    The only way we can move forward as a club is with progressive pioneering football. At the moment we are pioneers and play the most scientific tactically tight game in the league. What we lack now is the personnel to slot into an effective template.

    Soon under the guidance of Rodgers and co we will boast 3-4 players capable of winnging the balon'd. Kenny bless him blew close to £80 millon on players who will probably never win Barclays player of the month.

  25. Looking at his stats online, he's crossed the ball significantly less this year but created almost as many chances.

    He's also shot the ball significantly less this year.

    My point is that he's not being asked to score goals. He's being asked to keep the ball and get it in safely to the other forwards so they can work with it. He's not being asked to supply the goals off crosses in the same manner like he was last year.

    I think that this is the biggest difference for both he and Henderson this year. Their expectations and their responsibilities have been lowered, and they've been able to play much more effectively.

  26. All this says is that it takes time to fit into a new situation. So we should be more patient with players. Cutinho came in and began to create immediately. He is a special player but I have seen him make some mistakes based on misunderstanding. Every new player needs an adjustment period. Some figure it out quickly (Cutinho, Sturridge), some take a bit more time (Downing, Henderson, Allen, Wisdom), and some never would (Adam, Spearing). A manager actually has to live with those decisions and I think BR has done an admirable job so far, especially as a new manager.

  27. He has done well to find his place in Rodger's system, especially considering how his game isn't that expansive and unorthodox the system can be at times, so kudos to him for that and for the decent performances he has shown. But he is still an average player who has not, unsurprisingly, justified his fee and we could do better, a lot better. Content with him as a squad player but as a first XI player for a club that aspires to be in the top 4, no thanks.

  28. But in the current system end product is NOT all that matters. Quite clearly Downing has been doing some great defensive work. The goal he got came from hard work and closing down. So too did some of our other chances..........also you can't just look at goals and assists as the only parts of end produce. If you make the pass before the pass that creates the goal, then you're still contributed.....the fact is, Downing is currently playing well. If he continues to do that, he'll keep his spot. If not he'll be moved on, like anyone else (except Agger who can play rubbish for a whole season and get a new contract :p)

  29. I think Downing is generally a solid if unspectacular player, you know he'll put in a shift but the end product isn't always there. I never understood why KD did not start Downing and Carroll together, it seemed like a good combination but obviously never worked out.

    Speaking of which I haven't seem much talk about what will happen with Carroll at the end of the season other than west ham don't want him for 17 million. I guess we'll be looking to offload him and will take a huge hit. Newscastle seems the likely destination but I personally hope we don't swap him for Ben Arfa, the guy is injury prone and seems arrogant.

  30. hahaha.....J.Shelvey can score 5 goal but don't have many chances to playing.Downing only 5 goal and 5 assist for playing nearly 2 season?? Very good.LFC will be suffer and struggle if still using him for future.We can see the real character of him while playing for high pressure game.We will find out that he never exist and cannot hit the form.LFC must try to bring in another winger to balance and compete with him.Christian Erikson is the best player that LFC must sign him.

  31. If he does not feature in BR's plans for next season, atleast his improvement would raise his market value, wouldn't it?

  32. I'm happy with Downing at the moment. He gives the side a nice balance.

    Coutinho drifts in a lot more, and although Downing cuts in on his right, he tends to hold the width more. He works hard as well and helps Johnson out (which should theoretically make Johnson more threatening going forward). He puts the ball in the box too, which adds variety to our play.

    He's in good form, but I think we'd be best trying to capitalise on this for profit. If we're to go to the next level, centre-half and GK (barring improvement from Pepe) aside, right-wing is one of our least impressive positions. I'd like to keep Downing as a squad player, but confidence players can be useless squad players since they need to play to get said confidence.

  33. lol name them talk about over praise we have one world class player and gerrard whos coming to the end of his carear,people mite say i,am pesamistic but with posts like yours is they any wonder and i cannot believe someone agreed with you,ps no offence mean,t personally

  34. Although I appreciate you trying to give Downing some deserved credit, I feel compelled to point out the misleading nature of your statistics, something the media has been consistently misleading with too:

    His 5 goals and 4 assists this season is in all competitions.

    His 0 goals and 0 assists last season is only in the league, and does not include the goals and assists he clocked up in the two cups.

    I'm all for criticizing Stewart Downing, but do it accurately with suitably comparable data

  35. Absolutely! Those certain players have finally seemed to take it on board that they need to up their game from last season or end up labelled sh!te with not much prospects club-wise after LFC.
    I really hope Downing does play for his career and does it well. If we had to replace him I don't think we'd have enough money, especially with other positions to consider, to get the type of replacement who would straight away be better.

    It would be different if his position was our main priority in the summer, hopefully though he'll prove it isn't and we can then spend the big money on a CB to compete with or replace Skertl

  36. Phillippe Coutinho has the potential to be world class and a Ballon d'Or winner, Luis Suarez is another. We will purchase players who will have that potential. Burt isn't saying that we currently have 3-4, but that soon, we will boast 3-4, meaning that with our current squad and with a couple of players capable of playing our system at a high level.

  37. I agree, it's players like Lucas, Downing, Henderson that allow the more creative players to concentrate more on creating chances, therefore they are integral in our style of play.

  38. All an assist is is the last pass before the scorer receives the ball, what about the player that played an integral part in the buildup? An excellent example of this was the game against Arsenal at the start of last season. Lucas played throughball to Raul Meireles that split the defense apart, Meireles then passed the ball to Suarez I believe it was (although it may have been Kuyt), who tapped the ball into an open goal. Although Meireles gets the credit for the assist, he wasn't the creator of the move and if it wasn't for the vision of Lucas, the goal wouldn't have come about, so, assists, although are an interesting statistic, don't leave room for the grey areas of the buildup play.

  39. suarez yes coutinho as been great and showed good potential but hes played about an hour and half of football so i would say miles to early to judge take about pressurising the lad ,still only 1 for me and weres the rest because they will not be comming to anfield this season (would like to see erikson come he has the potential to push towards the level you think we have)

  40. Mr. Point of View9:23 am, March 16, 2013

    PC is good but i guess at moment is over praised him...

  41. Theycallmemrburt11:39 am, March 16, 2013

    What gaz said really.....

    we are now in the market for the "new" Ronaldo or Ronaldinho as apposed to the "new" or sometimes effin actual Matthew Etherington, Nick Barmby, Ray Parlour, Leonardson, Barry or Vlad Smicer.

    Ive been waiting years for genuine replacements for barnes, macca, litmanen, Beardsley and Molby and now 15 years on......shoots of recovery. We really need to learn to buy flair and mould that type of player into a hard worker as apposed to buying a hard worker and teaching them how to be skillfull and creative as its impossible.

  42. I think with Sturridge in the team, Downing will get a lot more assists, or at least more contribution to goals. Sturridge is consistently in the box and a target for crosses. His goal vs norwich, assisted by downing highlights this.

  43. A lot of Aussies me included actually started supporting Liverpool because of Craig Johnston also it was great to see a young Aussie doing so well on the highlights shows.