Stewart Downing arrived at Liverpool with a hefty £20m price tag and many expected him to be the immediate solution to Liverpool’s problematic left midfield conundrum. However, in 16 appearances for the Reds, he has failed to score a single goal and his performances haven’t been of the same high standard as last season, when he was Aston Villa’s player of the season.
With Downing’s pinpoint crosses, it was hoped that Andy Carroll would finally begin to thrive in a red shirt. It’s fair to say that Carroll’s Liverpool career has been unequivocally poor so far, and while Downing has performed better than his fellow England international from the north-east, he hasn’t been able to replicate his scintillating form from last season.
Kenny Dalglish has publicly backed all of his big-money purchases, but markedly left out the £75m trio of Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing when Liverpool triumphed at Stamford Bridge. His decision to leave Downing on the bench in favour of Maxi Rodriguez may suggest that Dalglish doesn’t trust the former Middlesbrough and Villa winger in crucial matches.
Nonetheless, Downing’s Liverpool career almost began with a bang. His mazy dribble and thunderous shot against Sunderland after just half an hour of the Premier League season would have been a goal of the season contender had it not cannoned back off the crossbar. Against Fulham, Mark Schwarzer somehow managed to tip his swerving drive onto the post. And as recently as Saturday, Downing forced three QPR defenders to back pedal before being thwarted by the imperious Radek Cerny.
Downing has also played a crucial role for England in 2011, playing all nine internationals in the calendar year. Even though he is yet to score for the Three Lions, Downing provided crucial assists in wins over Bulgaria and Sweden.
It’s only a matter of time before Downing finds his feet at Anfield. There is no doubt that he is a talented footballer, but he needs to prove that he can consistently perform at a high level. Perhaps all he needs is a little bit of luck. So little, in fact, that it may just be the width of the crossbar at the Anfield Road end.