Stewart Downing is no longer a Liverpool player. We look at why Stewart Downing did not perform at Liverpool and examine the impact that he is likely to have at Upton Park.

“I’m very excited. It’s a great opportunity for me being here, it’s a great club and I’m really excited to get going.”- Stewart Downing

Letai??i??s get a few facts straight

Stewart Downing joined Liverpool for A?20m two years ago, but never came close to repaying that fee in terms of performances. The 2011-12 season was annus horribilis; with no goals and no assists in the entire Premier League season; it was statistics like these that directly cost Kenny Dalglish his job. There were occasions when the Scot would turn around and look at crunch times to find Downing sitting on the bench, only to bring him on in the hope that he would be able to strike gold some time. Alas, it never happened.

Stewart Downing

It didn’t work out at Liverpool, but could it work at West Ham?

Keeping aside the fact that mocking him was the national pastime not so long ago, Stewart Downing is not as bad a player as he is made out to be. The man is a great crosser of the ball. He is not known for devastating pace, but you cannot outrun left backs in pre season if you are a slouch. It may sound strange, but he is capable of putting that left foot of his to good use. Also, his ability to put crosses into the penalty box with his right foot whenever needed ensured his place on the right flank under Brendan Rodgers without sacrificing natural width. He may have stayed at Anfield for want of a replacement, but Stewart Downingai??i??s presence was vital to the defensive shape of the team; given Glen Johnsonai??i??s tendency to get caught out of position. Moreover, Downing has a fairly decent fitness record. When was the last time he missed games due to injury?

He may have broken through at Middlesbrough and been the star man at Aston Villa, but irrespective of what he does until the end of his career, fingers will always be pointed at his performances in 2011-12. History is unfair, but these stats do not lie.

So why didnai??i??t it work out?

A combination of factors may be at fault, in this case. First of all, he was brought in to provide crosses to Andy Carroll, plain and simple. On paper, it was a great idea. But the idea would not come to life if he would start on the left, provide crosses to Suarez and Dirk Kuyt for 65 minutes, and come off to be replaced by the very man he was supposed to provide crosses to. Given Kenny Dalglishai??i??s penchant for crowding the midfield, as well as recognition of the importance of Luis Suarezai??i??s presence on the pitch, Andy Carroll did not play as much as he liked, and when he did, his partner in crime was watching him from the bench. Secondly, whenever the ball was put into the box, either of the following things happened (i) the ball went straight to an opposing centre half (ii) no one made a forward run into the penalty area (iii) the pass was received by a teammate and promptly slammed against the woodwork. The former Villa winger accounted for a fair share of the 33 shots that hit the crossbar in one season ai??i?? the underlying fact that lies beneath a no-goal-no-assist season. Third, he is a confidence player, and Stewart Downing was low on confidence. A bad run of form turned into a nightmare. The buck stops at Stewart Downing.

Credit to the man where itai??i??s due, though. He was told by Brendan Rodgers in October 2012 that he was not in his first team plans; and was free to find a new club that offered a surer guarantee of game time. While he initially claimed he was disappointed by Brendan Rodgersai??i?? criticism of him, he did put his head down and fight for a place in the starting lineup, just like Henderson and Enrique. A combination of a burnout suffered by Raheem Sterling and a better run of form ensured his place on the right flank until the end of the season. He does not have a string of goals and assists to show for it, but his presence on the field coincided with a stronger second half of the season. He must have been doing a few things right.

What does he bring to at West Ham?

Andy Carroll

Will he look so glum next season?

Surely, it’s the aforementioned qualities that he was brought to Liverpool for . Downing is Big Sam Allardyceai??i??s fifth signing this summer, and will be reunited with former Liverpool teammates Joe Cole and Andy Carroll to play in a system familiar to him from his days at Boro and Villa. The idea of Stewart Downing and Matt Jarvis providing crosses from either flank to Andy Carroll or Modibo MaA?ga is a tantalising one. The square-faced Big Sam has successfully made use of this system at Bolton Wanderers in the past, and there is no reason why he cannot replicate it at Upton Park.

‘Keyboard warriors’ may point to the fact that he did not cut it a ai???big clubai??i??, that he is more a big fish in a small pond. West Ham may have comfortably parked the mid table bus; but the once contributed three key players to the only English squad that ever won a World Cup. That may have been half a century ago, but the Hammers were also known for playing ai???beautifulai??i?? attacking football. They may now play in a style often associated with negativity; but it highlights positive attributes like the eye for a long pass, positional sense and the ability to use physique fairly to oneai??i??s advantage. Big Samai??i??s Hammers play Route One football with an attacking mindset (at home, at least), and it delivers results. In the words of Sir Alex Ferguson, not many managers could have got them back into the Premier League soon after relegation.

One may laugh at the Hammers for helping Liverpool reduce their wage bill, question their wisdom in doing so, depending on your persuasion. It must be noted, however, that the Hammers will move into the Olympic Stadium in three seasons. A better stadium in a better location with a higher capacity will surely mean more attendances and more revenues. The club has gone about their business this summer sensibly too. They will not set the league alight this year, but have taken baby steps to ensure that they have a semblance of a vision to promote when the time comes for bolder plans in the future.

Having digressed enough, it must be acknowledged that the transfer of Stewart Downing is a good deal for Liverpool but a better deal for West Ham. Nice blokes may not win trophies, but Downing is a nice bloke nonetheless. Unlike a certain Luis Suarez, he has not tried to force his way out of the club ai??i?? in fact, he has done the exact opposite. Liverpool have reduced the wage bill, opened the door for replacements and (possibly) left a spot open for an Academy player. No one should feel sorry for the man. West Ham United are slowly building a platform that could lead to better things to a years to come, and Stewart Downing may help build that foundation in the capital city.

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