It would be fair to say that Stewart Downing hasn’t had the best career on Merseyside after his £20m switch from Aston Villa last summer. Following on from this torrid time, Brendan Rodgers appears to be changing his approach with the 28-year-old and has claimed that the player could begin to play as a left back.
There were several raised eyebrows when former manager Kenny Dalglish shelled out so much money for the former Middlesbrough man last summer, with many unconvinced at Downing’s ability to compete at the top level. As it turns out, those concerns appear to have been completely vindicated, with the England international simply failing to put any consistent form together. To date, he has failed to score a single league goal in his twenty nine starts, while his assists rate is not much better either.
Following on from the above, Rodgers is looking to utilize the left-sided player in a different way. When asked about the possibility of Downing operating as a left back, he said, “I think it is a big possibility that he can play there. When Middlesbrough reached the Uefa Cup final against Sevilla, he played left-back on that run. Sometimes it can release the pressure on players. His job at the top end of the pitch is to create and score goals. But you looked at him in the half-hour against Hearts, he served the ball well, he got forward and defended a couple of times. That is important.”
Whether or not Downing manages to force his way into Rodgers’ new plans in the near future is another matter though. As it stands, Jose Enrique is the first choice in that position and despite Rodgers’ hope, it is doubtful that Downing will manage to dislodge the former Newcastle full back just yet. Nevertheless, it is a big indication that Rodgers is not a fan of Downing as a winger, which certainly puts more of a dampener on last summer’s big money transfer activity following the speculation over the futures of Andy Carroll and Charlie Adam over recent weeks.