I FEEL sorry for Stewart Downing.
There, I said it. It might make you spit your drink across your monitor over these very words, but I do. His performances have generally attracted a lot of criticism, and I wrote an article late last season questioning his mentality.
It’s fair to say that he has answered the questions I posed.
He doesn’t remotely have the mental strength to play for Liverpool. He is a craven coward who is thought so lowly of by the manager that he is now back up left back, and Jose Enrique (who Rodgers also doesn’t rate) plays left midfield ahead of him.
But after getting a bit of a panning from the fans for his performances in both the Swansea City and Spurs game in the past week, I think you have to feel a bit sorry for him. Downing, who is clearly heading for the exit either in January or next summer, in my opinion the former, was being asked to play left back.
His previous experiences in that position have been in Europe against (in theory) inferior opposition such as Hearts. But as Rodgers shuffles his pack following injury to Andre Wisdom, he has seen fit to play Downing at left back in two pretty important games. After our slow start every game is fast becoming important. Especially an away game against Spurs – our rivals for European football.
I don’t think Spurs are all that and the fact we carved out so many clear cut chances against them just reinforces that opinion – we just weren’t able to take them. However, Spurs are dangerous themselves going forward and leaving Downing up against either Bale or Lennon was grossly irresponsible of the manager.
The first Spurs goal was all down to Downing not tracking his man or being alert – but it’s hard to blame him. It’s not his game. I don’t know what exactly his game is meant to be these days as he isn’t the player we signed from Villa, but I can tell you now that he isn’t supposed to be a left back. And he isn’t very good at it.
Is this to put the £20m man in the shopping window? I hope not. We don’t have time to do that. It’s December soon. We aren’t an insurmountable amount of points behind those chasing the coveted 4th spot and Europa League places. I’d rather play Glen Johnson at left back if that’s what we need to do. We need to get ourselves on a good run of form.
I think Downing is beyond help at Liverpool now. At a team with far less pressure he may thrive again but he hasn’t the mindset to play for a team where the fans expect a win and good performances every week. He has been a disaster and he needs to be shipped out. Rodgers clearly has no time for him, proven by the way he effectively torpedoed him earlier in the season by bringing Suso into the squad at the expense of the winger. We need to move him on, get a good fee (£10m is about what we should have paid and we’ll probably receive a sum similar to that) and start again.
But Rodgers needs to learn his lesson. Downing is either a winger or not in the team. He isn’t capable of defending against quality opposition, as was proven at White Hart Lane. Worth an experiment but the signs were there at Swansea. He needs to be taken out of the firing line, for both his and the manager’s sake.