The Kenny Dalglish revolution at Liverpool has gathered pace with news that the Anfield outfit have agreed a fee with Aston Villa to sign winger Stewart Downing. Former Middlesbrough star Downing has been on the Reds’ radar for some time now and will become Liverpool’s third major signing of the summer following the acquisitions of Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam.
Following a superb 2010-2011 campaign, the 26-year-old Englishman scooped the players’ player, fans’ player and sponsors’ player of the year awards at Villa Park at the end of last season. His excellent performances caught the eye of Dalglish and Damien Comolli, and although the Reds’ first bid of around £15m for the player was immediately knocked back, Villa could not refuse the second offer which is thought to have been around the £20m mark including add-ons.
The imminent arrival of Downing has sparked mixed feelings among Liverpool’s fervent supporters. Some believe that the player is vastly over-priced, while others would have preferred a more exciting foreign star, such as Valencia’s Juan Mata, to have arrived at Anfield instead. However, ‘King Kenny’ appears to be satisfied with buying British players and in terms of statistics, Downing ticks many of the boxes for both the club’s forward-thinking American owners and the management team.
Dalglish clearly has his eyes set on players who can create a hatful of chances for Andy Carroll next season and Downing could form an effective partnership with the £35m striker. Not only did the imaginative wide-man register seven assists in the league last season – the same number as Liverpool’s best creator Dirk Kuyt – but he has also completed a staggering 135 crosses in open play over the last three campaigns – more than any other player. Downing produced 78 key passes last season – only Bolton Wanderers’ Kevin Davies and Chelsea’s Florent Malouda made more and in the last seven years, only Frank Lampard, Cesc Fabregas, Steven Gerrard and Ryan Giggs have created more chances in the top-flight than dependable Downing. The inventive left-sided midfielder is among the very best when it comes to creating opportunities.
Downing also poses a threat in front of goal. He managed to take 62 shots in the league last season and found the net seven times. In addition, the midfielder is quite reliable in terms of fitness. Over the past five Premier League seasons, the England international has averaged just over 34 appearances and he also played in every single game in the last campaign. Some supporters may still have their doubts over his inflated transfer fee, but the statistics show that Downing certainly has quality.
Liverpool may be splashing the cash somewhat handsomely this summer, but the money is all being used on key players who will create chances galore for Carroll. Downing, Adam and Henderson created 239 chances in the top-flight last season and if they can reproduce anywhere near that level in the upcoming campaign, then the Reds will be a forward force to be reckoned with as Dalglish aims to lead Liverpool back into the top-four.