Date: 13th July 2011 at 2:22pm
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With Charlie Adam signed, Liverpool’s next high profile target is Stewart Downing. The England winger has made no secret of his desire to leave Aston Villa this summer and is expected to force a transfer by handing in a transfer request if Liverpool’s advances continue to be knocked back. The proposed transfer has been met online by a group of whingeing Liverpool fans, many crying ’sign Mata, sign Mata’ or alternately stating that Downing is average at best, or simply not good enough. Such comments display the naïveté of some fans in terms of how they perceive the modern game.

What seems to escape the attention of these fans is that in January of this year Liverpool paid a club record £35m to sign Andy Carroll. Call me crazy but I believe this would suggest that Andy is seen as a key first team player for next season. One only need look at Liverpool’s last two games of last season, when Carroll, despite clearly not being fit, was chosen to play alongside Suarez as a striker ahead of the in-form Dirk Kuyt. Carroll is seen as first choice. As such Dalglish will be looking to construct a side to get the best from his £35m man.
To think that Kenny Dalglish gave the go-ahead on signing Carroll for £35m without realising that he needs good service borders on insulting the King’s knowledge of the game. We all know Andy’s main strengths, he has great physical presence and colossal heading ability. He gets less praise for his ability to pick a pass and he also has a decent touch, impressive attributes for such a big man. Carroll also has a ferocious shot, it is clear to see why, in this department, parallels with Alan Shearer have been drawn.

Carroll however, also has weaknesses. He could do with working on his ball retention and hold-up play, as he is often clumsy or wasteful when playing a simple pass. Also, for a man who to look at, appears at a glance to be something of a beast – Carroll could also improve on his strength.

Upon his signing I had noticed in his medical photos that his upper-body could do with a lot of work, he did not cut the figure of a toned, conditioned and muscular modern pro, but then he did have a reputation. Carroll is also not the quickest, which diminishes our ability to thread through-balls to Carroll as a viable, steady supply-source of goal-scoring chances.

This is precisely the problem in the debate over Mata that so many fans seem to miss. Liverpool need someone who can deliver a cross. This is not Mata’s style. He is a great little player but a gamble in terms of getting the best from Carroll. Mata is a typical Spanish schemer, playing in a floating role on the left, looking to playing quick one-twos, or to pick an incisive through ball. Mata plays most of his football in a more central area of the pitch, drifting in on the left side of a front three. The same people who clamour for Mata would also likely state that Liverpool need width. Mata would simply not provide the desired width we need.

Whilst the thought of Mata and Suarez linking up on the left, playing intricate, incisive football on the deck is great in theory, such a system would not suit big Andy, who thrives on good crosses (or indeed even average ones. Man City anyone?). Make no mistake – next season we will be looking to get crosses to him. Whilst Mata does not provide traditional, touchline-hugging, by-line-driving width, Downing certainly does.

It is the width offered by Stewart Downing which puts him ahead of Mata as a priority signing for Liverpool. The left-footer whipped in more crosses in open play than any player in the Premier League last season, 135 in total. According to Opta stats, this is more than any other player has accumulated in a season in the last three campaigns. Very impressive. We are all aware too that Downing is not overly elaborate and could hardly be described as a ‘flair’ player, but then the same can be said for the likes of Antonio Valencia at Man Utd, who was widely praised for his simplicity on the ball at the tail end of last season (rightly so in my opinion, he rarely loses the ball).

Downing is not a ‘one-trick pony’ as many lazily suggest – some, with dreams of comedy superstardom have described him as a ‘no-trick pony’. Again, this is lazy – if not just downright idiotic. As we can see, Downing’s main ‘trick’ is offering width and providing crosses, but he is also capable of scoring goals as well as creating them (as we found out to our detriment) – eight in total last season. Downing can also pick a pass as well as deliver crosses. Strikers with pace, such as Gabriel Agbonlahor, and more recently Darren Bent have both benefited from Downing’s ability to split a defence over the last few years. Were it not for Bent’s famed profligacy in front of goal, and inability to stay onside, Downing may have claimed many more than the nine assists he contributed last season.

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Who would you rather Liverpool sign: Downing or Mata?

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19 responses to “Who should Liverpool sign: Downing or Mata?”

  1. Freddy says:

    MATA was a better Player then Silva(ManC)when he(Silva)was at valencia , i don´t think it would take long,for that VERY talented winger to adapt !
    But if Kenny only want Stuart(Little He He)Downing, my trust are with him, even though i Prefere MATA , More like John Barnes,and work Box to Box,he´s fast,scores a lot of goals to,and could be a backup striker when needed !
    Younger then Downing!

  2. tony says:

    We should sign johnson city aly cissokho lyon sergio aguero madrid athletico simple as that if we dont watch it suarez will do the same with us that torres did .
    lets get great player like this seriously we can get all three

  3. Alextalk says:

    Right on! The argument is not whether Downing or Mata is the better player but what LFC needs in terms of what KD and folks are trying to build. I distinctively remember what Rafa used to say a few years back…he was looking for a ‘leg’ for his table…a ‘leg’ that fits and not the most expansive or prettiest ‘leg’…makes sense! Its natural that some fans always look at all the ‘prettiest legs’ and scream that we should buy them..but then again even with all the ‘galacticos’ of the previous Real Madrid era..they really didn’t a whole hell of a lot..which on paper they should have…it is a TEAM sport with a TEAM of fitting players playing to a system designed for the members of the TEAM.

  4. ANDY says:

    Mata every day. It may be a bit of a gamble but he looks the part and to be honest, I just find Downing very dull. He’s never really set the premier league alight. Every premiership defender knows what downing is about. At least with Mata he has a bit of the unknown about him.

  5. ANDY says:

    I agree Aguero would be quite something!!!

  6. Riz says:

    I agree with Alextalk 100% and als with the writers blog content. Downing offers the width we badly missed last season. So he may not be doing step over after step over (after step over) like other foreign winging tend to add to tgeirm game giving them “flair” but he will be guaranteed to deliver quality balls onto the head of our big money man Carroll.

    On another note, It would have been nice to bring back old Riise to the squad and for only a few Mill he seems to be a snip. Whether he still has the paxce to bomb up and down the flanks remains to be seen but he still has a hell of a left foot.

  7. Marty says:

    all this talk about supplying balls for andy carroll etc, what about suiting the play of our other striker Luis Suarez?? :S would mata not suit the style of play of suarez??? :S yes i agree carroll needs good service in order to score goals, but should we not be looking after suarez aswell??? seems like dalglish and comolli are more concerned with our homegrown talent rather than our foreign talents…. if they keep this up they will lose players like suarez, reina etc.. sure theyre already trying to ship out an italian international and a portuguese international to make way for adam and henderson….. disgraceful!!!!!!

  8. Shola says:

    I choose mata than downing bcos we provide alternative way of score for liverpool and is very young player,the best is yet 2 come

  9. Jevon says:

    get both!! hehehe

  10. Riz says:

    Marty, we already have players whos play will suit Suarez, getting balls into the box and flicking balls on, holding up play which is what Carrol will provide can only aid Suarez also. Mereiles is staying put and Aqualani was not part of last years team so it would not be any loss to us if we shipped him out after all he will more than likely sit on the bench while collecting his huge weekly pay packet.

    On a positive note… I watched a bit of Liverpools game this afternoon and it was good to see Charlie Adam in a Liverpool shirt, he really looked the part. Also pleased to see young Coady get on the score sheet with a fine finish.

  11. dom says:

    Marty did you just say it is a disgrace to look for home-grown talent over foreign talent?

    KK is buying players that know the premier league and can do a good job, there is no point buying Mata if he takes a couple of seasons to adapt to premier league style, he is just another player that likes to cut inside we dont need that.

  12. njanja says:

    Mata is certainly 1m miles ahead of ur Downing in every aspect; age, skills, goal scoring, assists, and most importantly will be well suited for our traditional pass and move style. Instead of changing an entire long-standing tradition just because of one man(Carrol), that man should change for the team.

  13. akpunku says:

    With due respect to our great King Kenny; i will always chose Meireles and Aqua ahead of an Adam and Hendo

  14. pickson says:

    King K should buy mata. mata is just lik suarez even more than suarez. we don’t need to buy english players we hav enough of them. pls let get mata because we don’t need onLy crosses we need crater to create chances and not to cross ball up and down for our opponents.

  15. pickson says:

    pls king k we need MATA ,mata mata pls

  16. Gerrardious says:

    hw about non of the above? most seem to forget there are many more wingers out there who are beta(than Downing) and pose less risk(than ‘small-ish’ Mata), and considerably cheaper than both of em.

  17. shanks says:

    it dont matter what we say on message boards kk has made up his mind on transfers so we can kiss mata goodbye i think its a crying shame i much prefare him to downing but kk .knows best or does he i think he is getting carried away with all .this talk of buying english players

  18. Dave says:

    Listen people really need to get over this aguero thing cos he ain’t coming to Liverpool! Secondly mata is a great little footballer but I think that downing could do a decent job. I will be honest I would to see mata as well as downing but that maybe a little unrealistic, who knows?!

  19. Ian says:

    You are all missing the point, there is no way that Aguero or Mata for that sake would come to liverpool at this moment in time. mabe next season if we gat champions legue. dont underestimate Downings abilities, yes he is a bit dull, but he is extreamly effective, simple is what we need. also we need English as its only a matter of time before the FA impose some sort of home grown ruel.