There’s no secret to the fact that Manchester United and Liverpool hate each other. The race to sign Ashley Young ended with Young “snubbing” LFC to head to the Red Devils for around £17m. Liverpool, however, shot back with their own deal for the other Villa winger Stewart Downing in a deal believed to be worth around £20m.
There has been much debacle amongst LFC fans, Villa fans, and Utd fans alike about which team got the better deal. Using Opta Stats Centre, we were able to compare the two together to make this nifty little chart.
As you can see from the numbers, both players had very impressive seasons last year. Both scoring a good amount of goals and tallying up a solid number of assists.
The two players will be compared in three different areas:
Attacking – Passing/Possession – Value
In the goals department, both players racked up the same amount (7) for last year’s Premiership campaign. 7 is a good number of goals coming from both your wingers. There’s more to these figures than just seven goals however. That means from 26 shots on target, Stewart Downing scored 7 goals, a percentage rounded to 27%. Meaning if Downing were to take a shot on target, there was a 27% chance of that shot going in. Ashley Young meanwhile, scored 7 goals off of 34 shots on target. Therefore if Young were to take a shot, there would be a 21% chance of his shot going in.
Another thing to look at would be the shots on target ratio to total shots. The reason this figure could be important would be for analyzation of the players ability to put his shot on frame. In 62 total shots, Stewart Downing put 26 shots on target. This means that 42% of Downing’s shots were on target. Ashley Young posted 34 shots on target in 71 total shots. 48% of Young’s shots were on target.
Using these last two sets of figures, a conversion rate can be used to show the player’s efficiency. With 26 shots on target and 27% of those going in, Downing gets a conversion rate of 7:26. Ashley Young took 34 shots and 21% of those went in giving Young a 7:34 conversion rate.
Assists, FK’s, dribbles, and shot analyzation are the only areas left to cover in the attacking aspect and we can analyze those quickly.
Stewart Downing collected 7 assists total last year, 1 from a set play and 6 coming in open play. Downing was second to Ashley Young who piled up 10 assists from last year, 1 from a set play and 9 from open play. At the winger positions they are in, it is important to look at who helped with the tallying up of more goals.
Free kicks are an area in which Ashley Young seems to have impressed a few people over the past few years in. He certainly beats Stewart Downing’s total of 0 goals off of direct free kicks in 7 attempts. Young, however, only scored 2 goals off of direct free kicks in 9 attempts.
The dribbling aspect of these player’s games is crucial considering the roles that they are in for their respective clubs. Last year, Ashley Young successfully dribbled a decent 18 times. Stewart Downing however, successfully dribbled 28 times.
The last area left to analyze is the ability of the player to be versatile in using their feet. When it comes to shot selection, Downing preferred his left foot 48 out of the 60 shots he took with his feet, meaning that 80% of the time Downing used his left foot. Ashley Young was even worse however only taking 8 shots out of 67 taken with his feet, meaning 88% of his shots were with his right foot.
When it comes down to it, there is no question that these two players are extremely talented in their respective position and their attacking abilities. While the assists are impressive from Young, there are just too many positive Downing numbers to ignore. Looking at the figures, though Ashley Young has some stand out impressive numbers, Stewart Downing’s all around good play and versatility has led me to believe that he has the win in this department.
Attacking Advantage: Stewart Downing
The second area to analyze would be the passing/possession part of their game, two parts that crucial to look at considering the positions these two play.
Possession and aerial duels are important figures because they help tell you how well this player does when the ball is on the line. In aerial duels, Ashley Young has the clear advantage winning 4 out of 9 chances. Stewart Downing won just 9 out of 27 chances. When it came to actual possession duels however, duels where the ball was on the line, Stewart Downing won 102 battles and lost just 98. Ashley Young won 148 duels and lost 167, showing a big gap in his ability to retain possession when challenged.
Passing is also a huge key to these player’s part in their side. The total passes and total accurate passes include crosses and throw ins as well as all types of passes whether it be through ball, lobbed balls or just a ground ball. Out of 1874 passing attempts, Stewart Downing successfully completed 1292 giving him a passing percentage of 69%. Ashley Young completed 905 passes out of 1400 attempts, giving him a slightly worse percentage than Stewart Downing, a 65%. One number I really wanted to look at was the crosses completed percentage though because as a winger, you are sending the ball in as your job. Stewart Downing completed 79 crosses out of 324 attempts, meaning he completed a measely 24% of his attempted crosses. Ashley Young however, completed 76 crosses out of 247 attempts. This means that Young completed 31% of his crosses. Downing completed nearly 1/4 of his crosses whereas Young completed nearly 1/3 of his.
The last passing area to look at is the passing backward percentage. Squads these days like players who tend to move the ball forward rather than passing backwards all of the time. As a winger, it’s crucial to move the ball forward. The advantage in this area goes to Stewart Downing who passed backwards only 18.7% of the time, compared to Ashley Young who did it 21% of the time.
Another quick area to look at is chances created by the two players. Stewart Downing created more chances (77) than Ashley Young (68) this past season. 24 of the chances created by Downing were from set pieces and 33 of the chances created by Young were from set pieces. Advantage there goes to Young. However, 53 of the chances Downing put in were from open play compared to just 35 from Ashley Young. Advantage Downing. If you’re looking for a more balanced chance creator than Young is your man. But if you want a winger who can swing the ball in from open play, Downing is definitely the go to guy.
After looking at the possession/passing stats, the advantage has to go again to Stewart Downing, who puts up just too good of numbers to deny the advantage.
Passing/Possession Advantage: Stewart Downing
The last area to analyze would be the fee paid for these players. Manchester United paid just £17m for a 26 year old England international whose best days have yet to come. The potential that Young has outshoots what Downing has to offer. Once Ashley Young grows into the player he can be at Utd, that £17m fee will look like £5m for what he’s worth. LFC paid a ridiculous £20m for the 27 year old England man in Stuart Downing. While Downing puts up some impressive numbers, £20m is a stupid fee that Liverpool way overpaid Villa. I guess if they’re willing to pay it though you get everything you can for him as Villa.
The advantage in fee for what he’s got easily goes to Ashley Young because who wants to pay £20m for anyone?
Fee Advantage: Ashley Young
In the end, Downing has two advantages and Young has one. The better deal here, goes to Liverpool FC. Despite the fact that they may have paid a quarter more than what he’s actually worth, they are getting a quality player who won POY at Villa last year. While Young will surely shine at Utd if he plays his cards right, Downing will give LFC exactly what they want and if he can put of the same numbers that he did in the last Premiership campaign, then the Reds are in for a treat.