Liverpool Club Focus – Time to drop Downing?

Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish signed a number of players during the summer transfer window, as he aimed to construct a squad with enough depth and quality to compete for a place in the top four in the Premier League. These stars included the likes of Charlie Adam, Craig Bellamy, Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Jose Enrique. While Adam, Bellamy and Enrique and have all shown what they can do in a Reds shirt, young Englishman Henderson and former Aston Villa wide-man Downing have not yet managed to fully convince Liverpool fans that they are the real deal.

Fortunately for Henderson, the highly-rated midfielder has found the net and grabbed an assist since moving to Anfield. Supporters are aware of his talent and are generally willing to give him more time to settle given his young age. However, the same cannot be said for Downing. The 27-year-old winger, who has struck the post on three occasions this season, was not bought as one for the future, but more as a player who could be thrown into the mix immediately and perform well. But the England international has failed to produce the goods so far.

Downing was involved in 14 goals for Villa last season, scoring seven and setting up seven. His ability to find the net, to create chances and to ping in crosses made him an ideal signing for Liverpool, who were seeking the quality, out-and-out wide man they had been missing for several years. Dalglish is yet to see a return on his £20m investment.

The midfielder has not scored or produced any goals for the Reds so far this campaign. And although he has been unlucky at times, many believe that Downing simply does not produce his best consistently enough. So is it time to drop the midfielder for either Craig Bellamy or Maxi Rodriguez?

Several supporters believe that Bellamy has been particularly lively when called upon this season and that the fiery Welshman should now be handed a regular starting spot. Maxi’s name is also beginning to pop up into the argument, particularly after he scored an impressive 10 league goals last season. Both players arguably offer a bigger threat in front of goal than Downing currently does.

But would dropping the winger now simply just dent his confidence? Downing was bought as a first-team player and some fans have commented on his low levels of confidence in recent games. Leaving him out of the starting eleven could possibly further lower his self-belief. Dalglish will have to make a firm decision when the Reds return to action after the international break, particularly ahead of some tough games against the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City.

But for now, Liverpool will go into the next couple of weeks thinking of what could have been. The Reds have dropped points at home against newly-promoted sides in the form of Norwich and Swansea, and if they had converted those draws into wins, Dalglish’s men would currently occupy a Champions League place. But all is not lost yet – there are 81 more points to play for and Liverpool still have plenty of time to meet their targets.

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