Revealed: Dalglish’s worst signing since returning back to the club
Secondly, the fact that Villa were reluctant to let go of both of Downing and Young in one summer. Ashley Young moved first to Man Utd for £17m and this indirectly inflated the Downing valuation. Villa were in a strong bargaining position, Liverpool, having just been beaten by Man Utd to Young, were not.
In 46 efforts on goal this season, Downing is yet to trouble the scorers. For a player that cost £20m, that is a quite frankly appalling return. The contrast down the left flank alone is enough to make the blood boil – the machine that is Jose Enrique is quicker with the ball than Downing is without it.
Pundits aplenty have decried Liverpool’s lack of cutting edge this term, Dalglish even admitted as much himself after the defeat to Man City this week after calling on his side to develop a more clinical edge in front of goal.
A decent barometer of the toothless nature of Downing et al comes courtesy of the fantastic Opta stats – Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea have all had 282 shots on goal in the Premier League this season, the top three for such a stat in the entire league. Man City have had 132 efforts on target and have 56 goals to show for it. Chelsea from the same number of efforts on goal have been on target with 126 shots and have scored 39 times. Liverpool, however, have been on target with only 114 shots on goal and have a quite miserable return of just 24 goals, less than both Bolton and Blackburn.
It’s also worth pointing out that this Liverpool side have scored the exact same number of goals as Roy Hogson’s team had by this point last season. The difference between performances of the two sides is clear for all to see, though. Whereas Hodgson’s Liverpool were devoid of anything even resembling creativity, it’s clear from the aforementioned stats that at least Dalglish’s side are creating chances. The problem lies in the personnel, though, and their inability to finish them off, with Downing a main culprit.
Jordan Henderson may go missing at times and may appear too eager to play the simple option rather than risk the wrath of the terraces for trying something different, but his purchase has to be seen as a long-term investment and he’ll come good eventually, with him showing signs in the past few games in a more familiar central midfield position.
Carroll has been a huge disappointment and the only thing currently stopping him going down as the Premier League’s biggest ever flop is the fact that Fernando Torres cost Chelsea the princely sum of £50m on the same day. However, while he may have a lot of facets to his game that need improving, Liverpool fans should reserve a smidgen of hope that he’ll come good also. He’s not a ready-made striker and will require a lot of patience, but there is at least potential.
Downing, though, at 27 years of age should surely be approaching the peak of his powers. If a manager investing £20m in you and challenging you to help spearhead the rebuilding of a great club like Liverpool isn’t enough to give you confidence, I don’t know what is.
It looked a risky purchase at the time but it’s of no coincidence that the fates of Liverpool’s two biggest transfer mishaps in recent times are intertwined and their underperformance interlinked. Carroll at least has the excuse that the service hasn’t been up to scratch, though, whereas for Downing, there is no hiding place.
The article was written by James McManus for FootballFancast.com.