Stewart Downing has struggled to impress in his career after leaving Aston Villa where he dazzled and impressed everyone with his mesmerizing displays on the wing. He was touted as the future of English football – a new hero had been born.
Watching Downing during his Middlesbrough and Villa days was a joy, his trickery on the wing was similar to that of Ryan Giggs, and his ball passing ability was similar to that of David Beckham.
However, for Downing it all went downhill after he signed for Liverpool. He failed to make any sort of real impact at the Merseyside club and was branded a flop by the scouser supporters. His England career also took a bit of a dive in recent years with his appearances few and far between.
Many thought that when West Ham came to the rescue in 2013 that he would yet again find himself on the right stage to showcase his real talent and flair for the game. After all, he was going to get a lot more first team football playing for the Hammers than he would at Liverpool, and West Ham represented a unique opportunity – West Ham had Andy Carroll. The side that been lacking with for some time now had the man to supply it and a striker who thrived off it.
His debut for West Ham as a substitute in their 2-0 win against Cardiff at home was actually a good display and it offered a lot of promise. He had some good touches on the ball, cut in on a couple of occasions, and put some nice balls into the area.
After that game however, Downing looked like the Downing of Liverpool, and his performances on the wing were not that impressive.
Often failing to take on the defender and choosing to cross the ball way too early, he seemed to cop out of showing any real talent or skill. His crossing left a lot to be desired and it was looking increasingly like his early days as a wonderkid were just a flash in the pan – that is until the start of this season.
Sam Allardyce has had to employ a new attacking style of football in order to save his job at West Ham, and part of this change of style has involved employing a diamond formation, in which Downing moved to the tip with freedom to roam.
Rather than being pinned to the wing, Stewart Downing has found himself at the heart of the action. The once Liverpool flop has been able to feed some through balls to his strikers, create a lot of chances as one of the team’s main playmakers, and more importantly so for him, be where it counts for the second ball. This has allowed the player to get into some great positions, and as a result, has scored a couple of goals for his team already this season.
He is all over the pitch, making runs, being involved in all the important attacking phases of play. Downing looks like a brand new player and is one of the most effective midfielders in the Premier League right now. His work rate, his passing rate, his eye for goal – they all seem to have come out of nowhere and have stemmed from this new central role that his manager has given to him.
The Hammer’s last game against Stoke was a great example of how effective the player is, with an assist for the first goal and his own name on the score sheet for the second. He is finding himself in all the right places at all the right times and is loving it there.
Downing looks the most improved player in the Premier League this season and appears to have his best chance in years of earning himself that elusive England recall.