As Stewart Downing put pen to paper over the summer, there wasn’t a great deal of fanfare made about his signing, nor was there any real fuss in the media. It was an widely-known secret and probably the only signing of the summer that pretty much everybody inside and out of Anfield knew was going to happen.
Personally, I found the signing of Downing rather interesting and felt that he could bring a lot to the side; he could provide the genuine width that we haven’t had for many years (only some good performances from Riera breaking the left-sided curse short-term) and would undoubtedly offer us extra options and a different type of attacking style.
In the main, his performances have been very impressive – for the most part – he’s tricky, quick, with a relatively decent turn of pace and his crosses left-footed usually hit the spot every time, which make the following stats in all competitions all the more strange. Downing has had 23 shots, with 7 on target and has not scored a single goal. He has had second most shots only to Suarez and has not scored in 23 attempts. For a winger, you could normally forgive them not having a hugely prolific goal-scoring record but when a wide-player has managed not one assist from 9 starts and 1 substitute appearance it is worrying.
A quick glance across the whole squad shows that our top-scorer, Luis Suarez , also tops our assists tables with 3, whilst both Charlie Adam and Jose Enrique have both set-up 2 apiece. Perhaps of greater contrast to Downing though is that both Maxi and Raul Meireles have managed 1 assist each this season. In fact, Maxi has managed 1 goal and 1 assist and has only played in 2 games all season which raises the question of why in-form players aren’t being selected (but I’ll have more to say on that in future). As for Meireles, he only had 2 substitute appearances for the Reds before leaving for Chelsea but still managed to set-up Luis Suarez against Arsenal before departing.
However, despite the negative light these stats could put on Downing I feel there is a much better explanation for his season statistics so far – it is more-than-likely that the very large 0’s next to Downing’s name are symptomatic of Liverpool’s impotency in front of goal. Because while it came as a great surprise to me that he had notched up zero assists, I have seen him set up dozens of chances for his team-mates but they won’t ever count and will be consigned to history, no matter how impressive his build-up play; it is only the end-product that is remembered.
If they had scored just 5% more of those 154 opportunities we’ve created Downing’s assist column would look far healthier. So while he drastically needs to improve his chances-into-goals ratio (much like the entire rest of the team, as I’ve pointed out twice recently) his assists statistics will start to improve naturally, once his team-mates starts putting away some of the excellent chances he has been creating for them week-on-week.
It is just a shame for Downing that his position sees him judged on goals created and – to a lesser extent – goals scored, as if it wasn’t for the whole squad’s profligacy in front of goal, his promising start to the season would have instead become an excellent start to his Liverpool career.
Article courtesy of David Tryer from Live4Liverpool