With Downing due at Holly House this afternoon to complete his medical before joining West Ham United, we wanted to have a look at exactly what Downing would bring to a squad which, at times last year and especially in away games, struggled to create chances and ultimately struggled to score goals.
In 2013/14, the wide forward positions were filled by West Ham’s then record signing Matt Jarvis, Ricardo Vaz Te and Joe Cole.
Below we’ve focused on the defensive side of their game’s and with the general shape of the team when not in possession of the ball, defensive duties under Sam Allardyce are highly important and weigh heavily on the selection process of the starting 11.
Surprisingly, to me anyway, Downing is strong in the tackle winning a much higher % than any of the other compared players.
Ricardo Vaz Te minutes per interception numbers are impressive and those numbers contributed to various counter attacks which were mainly blunted last year due to a lack of pace that hopefully Downing would bring to the team although i find it highly unlikely that Vaz Te and Downing would have many minutes on the pitch together.
It was widely rumored that one of the big reasons that Liverpool paid £20m for Downing from Aston Villa was because of his excellent numbers in winning possession in the final ( attacking ) third of the pitch for Villa in the 2010/11 season but under the new regime at Anfield and new playing style in 2012/13, Downing’s numbers in that area were far less impressive but we can expect the aggressive Downing pressing to return next season in a West Ham team that do attack teams high up the pitch and seek to take advantage of quick transition there when the ball is won.
A look into ball retention and passing make’s for some interesting reading:
The Tiki Taka style adopted by Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers shows with the Total Passes and Pass Completion % of Downing who made close to 500 passes more than Matt Jarvis even though Jarvis played 300 or so more minutes.
Nevertheless, Downing’s Pass Completion % compared to the West Ham wide players in the 2012/13 season was very good at 83%.
Again i expect Downing under Sam Allardyce to adopt a more aggressive approach to winning the ball next year and i expect Downing’s ” Possession Winning ” numbers to get better as the season goes on and he beds into the team and West Ham’s style of football.
On the creativity and attacking front, it was well documented that Downing struggled in his first season at Anfield with 0 goals and 0 assists but last season under Rodgers, those numbers started to improve as Downing’s confidence grew game by game.
Thankfully the powers that be at West Ham are not in the habit of spending £35m and £20m respectively on two players that in truth, simply aren’t worth that kind of money.
But those same players at £15m and £6m puts an entirely different spin on things and with a strong British contingent in the Upton Park dressing rooms these days and the extremely strong team spirit created under the Allardyce regime, Downing will be made to feel welcome very early and will hopefully gain some confidence in the first few weeks in East London and deliver the kind of form that saw Liverpool lash out that huge transfer fee they paid from Aston Villa in 2011.
It’s that confidence and whether he can gain it or not that will be the key to Downing’s move to Upton Park and who knows, could even be the key to a successful England World Cup 2014 campaign as one thing is for certain, Upton Park will be a place that a certain Mr Hodgson will be seen pretty regularly in the coming season, that’s for sure..