The saga that Liverpool has faced over the past few years was about not having natural wide players. Yossi Benayoun was effective for them, Dirk Kuyt might be the most hard working player in the side, Maxi Rodriguez perhaps was in very good form at the end of the season but again these players are not able to offer the advantages of a gifted winger i.e speed, brilliant crossing and a little bit of dribble as well. Lets say Albert Riera who is not a world class winger but still a natural one used to provide width by always being present at the wing and provided good balls as well without cluttering in the center like Benayoun, Maxi or Kuyt.
The wait was over when Liverpool announced the signing of Stewart Downing; A natural wide player with pace, skills and fantastic crossing ability. To take the best out of Andy Carroll who is strong and brilliant with headers, sweet crosses are required and the former Aston Villa and Middleborough player can provide just that. The question is about his Ideal position, whether Liverpool should play him at the Right Wing or Left Wing.
Downing vs Valerenga
If we analyze from the last two friendly games, against Valeregna he started as a right winger. For the most part he preferred to cut back on his left foot to shoot, pass or deliver the ball in the box. One of the passes led to Carroll’s goal. Second half he was shifted to the left wing, started taking the defenders on, provided 2 good crosses and hardly did he shift to his right foot.
Downing vs Valencia
Versus Valencia, Downing started as a left winger and was very impressive. A lot of fans’ eyes were on how Juan Mata will perform and so were mine; however in my opinion Stewart Downing overshadowed him completely on the day. Played for 58 minutes but again for me was the man of the match. Wonderful runs, threatening crosses inside the box, came in the middle a few times as well. Did attack once from the right wing in the first half but lost the ball when cutting back to his stronger foot.
Verdict – Left Wing: The decision is not based on just the friendly games or on the fact that he has weak right foot. He can be brilliant for us as he has been at the right wing for Villa and many may argue about versatility but see it from a different angle. For Liverpool, the club does not have a skilled right winger with strong weak foot ability. Henderson is an option and Meireles has been used as well but again they are not wide players. Dirk Kuyt gives his all for the team but not known for his crosses or dribbling or pace.
So if Downing is shifted to the right wing. this means that both the wide players having low weak foot abilities will most of the times cut back on their favored strong foot, or won’t be able to deliver perfect deliveries from the weak foot. In this way the threat from the wings will be minimized as observed in the first half against Valerenga where Henderson started at the left wing. Already mentioned, having big figure of Carroll in the middle, pin point crosses from the wings are extremely important when the opponent defense is congested and there is no way through the middle. Downing does that job perfectly with his strong foot only.
In your opinion; Where is his ideal wing position for Liverpool?