Stewart Downing: Why Liverpool FC Should Never Have Bought Him

Luke CraneCorrespondent IFebruary 20, 2012

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 06:  Stewart Downing of Liverpool in action during the FA Cup 3rd Round match between Liverpool and Oldham Athletic at Anfield on January 6, 2012 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Stewart Downing got his first assist of the season for Liverpool FC yesterday in the 6-1 FA Cup mauling of Brighton and Hove Albion.

In the Premiership this term, Downing has started 20 games, scored none and supplied no assists.

Since his £20,000,000 move from Aston Villa in the summer, Downing has scored one cup goal with one cup assist. This is not the return Liverpool were expecting from their big-money signing.

The 27-year-old Downing has never been the greatest scorer. In his 181 appearance for Middlesbrough, Downing scored just 17 goals. In the two season he played at Aston Villa, the Teessider played 63 games and scored nine goals.

While a winger who can score goals on a regular basis, say like a John Barnes, is always highly sought-after, Downing was chiefly purchased for his crossing ability. 

While Downing can play on both wings, he is left-footed and usually starts on the left.

The Liverpool FC supporters website This Is Anfield includes an article entitled "In stats: Is Stewart Downing Cutting the Mustard?" The website states that this season, Downing has completed 144 crosses but only with an accuracy rate of 23 percent. The England winger also has taken 34 shots for his one solitary goal.

The Premiership League's assist leader is Manchester City's David Silva with 12 assists and five goals. The Spanish international did however cost £24,000,000. At that price he looks a bargain.     

When Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish was asked about Stewart Downing, as reported in the Daily Mirror, Dalglish insisted “For me, he’s better than I thought he was going to be." 

Dalglish, as every manager in the Premiership does, protects his players and is not ashamed to "embiggen" their individual worth to the collective team whole but with questions such as "Does He Cut the Mustard" and headlines like "Downing; a Waste of Money," it would seem the hyperbole might be a touch out of place.

It's true that not all the blame can be placed at Downing's feet, before he kicks it into the crowd.

He's been asked to play out of position at times this season for the Reds and the majority of his crosses have been aimed towards a striker who has had an equally difficult first full term for the Merseyside club. Andy Carroll did however score against Brighton from Downing's assist, so maybe the two will start to link up better from here on out.

Downing has also had to play for one of the biggest clubs in the world under the weight of his huge price tag. As a regular starter in the England setup, his every move is scrutinized by the British media. Whenever Downing does something wrong it is duly noted.

While Downing may deserve the benefit of the doubt and he may yet not prove to be a giant waste of money, wingers like Wolves' Matt Jarvis, Manchester City's Adam Johnson, Arsenal's Theo Walcott, Tottenham's Aaron Lennon and Manchester United's Ashley Young have all played for England in the last couple of years, all contributed more to their teams and all cost less than £20,000,000.

Liverpool were right to start rebuilding in the summer and this season the club has seen an upturn in their fortunes.

The Anfield side have a real possibility of lifting two domestic cups, with the Carling Cup Final against Cardiff City coming up on Sunday Feb. 26 and a quarterfinal match at home to Stoke City in March.

However, the Reds cannot say that every new arrival at the club has been a success. Expect Liverpool to release, trade, swap or deal a number of squad players at the end of this season, with Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing possibly among them.

Liverpool cannot expect to make their money back on Downing and if his performances and stats don't improve, the Reds may question if they should have ever bought him in the first place.