JOHN W Henry took control of Liverpool last winter and instantly injected cash into the club in the January transfer window with the signings of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez. Since then, he has signed five more players including British trio Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson- all of whom played last weekend against Sunderland. But of those three who will prove to be Liverpool’s best British summer signing?
Stewart Downing joined the rejuvenated Merseyside club from Aston Villa for £20m. He is versatile and can play on either wing, his crosses are excellent, he is a good finisher and has great pace and skill but does lack defensive qualities and has a record of long-lasting injuries. As an out-an-out winger Downing will not only get chalk on his boots, he will also put crosses on the head of Andy Carroll. His statistics over the last few seasons suggest he is a great acquisition. Since 2004, only four players in the Premier League have created more chances than Downing (Frank Lampard, Cesc Fabregas, Steven Gerrard and Ryan Giggs) and he has also completed more crosses in open play than any other player over the last three seasons. He fits Fenway Sports Groups philosophy of signing “young and preferably British talent” and above all else solves Liverpool’s left-wing problem.
Several players were scouted as the answer to the problem. Wigan’s Charles N’Zogbia had attracted a lot of attention from Anfield and was thought to cost £10m, half of the fee Liverpool paid Aston Villa for Downing, but has limited European experience and has now moved to Villa. Valencia’s Juan Mata was reportedly keen on a move to Merseyside. However, FSG indicated that they want players who are fluent in English and have Premier League experience instead of paying big bucks for a player to take time to settle in. Other players linked with a move to Liverpool were Adam Johnson and Shaun Wright-Phillips of Manchester City, Tottenham’s Aaron Lennon and Ashley Young of Villa, before he moved to Manchester United, but none of those player’s statistics are as good as Downing’s.
Jordan Henderson was the first of Dalglish’s summer signings, he arrived from Sunderland for £16m. A good first year with the Black Cats saw him win his first England cap against France in November and he has gone on to become an exciting English prospect. His energy, determination and creativity remind many Liverpool fans of a young Steven Gerrard, with Gerrard himself saying Henderson could succeed him in time as “the driving force in the Reds midfield”. He is also a tough tackler and will provide the steel in midfield that Liverpool have missed since Javier Mascherano and Dietmar Hamann left. Last year Henderson created 82 goalscoring opportunities for his fellow team-mates, the fifth highest in the league, while completing 78% of his attempted passes. He played the majority of the season in the centre of midfield but can also play on the right, as he was asked to do on Saturday against Sunderland. Henderson had a good first season with the Black Cats despite his dip in form mid-season. He is seen as one of England’s hottest prospects with his former manager Steve Bruce saying: “We’ve got the brightest young prospect in the British game in Jordan. He’s certainly the biggest, the best young British footballer there is. At 20 years old he’s got the world at his feet. He’s a fantastic footballer.” Henderson provides a bit of British grit and steel in central midfield, but will probably not feature too heavily in the first eleven this year. However, he has all the assets to suggest he will be an Anfield regular in years to come.