Stewart Downing 300
MUCH has been made of Stewart Downing’s New Year revival.
But the winger has only now started to deliver the one thing that may well save his Anfield career.
Downing’s equaliser against Tottenham Hotspur last weekend simply wouldn’t have happened last season, the player taking a chance on hunting a mistake from Hugo Lloris after Kyle Walker’s comedy backpass.
The week earlier, Downing provided the collector’s item of a headed effort at Wigan.
There’s no doubt the England man has been vastly improved ever since being told by Brendan Rodgers he would be surplus to requirements.
Downing recently admitted he was on his last chance at Anfield.
But, for his price tag and the money he is being paid, Downing needed to do more than simply be better than last season – not exactly difficult.
And he’ll have to keep producing this greater end product to remain in Rodgers’ long-term plans.
For all the talk of the latest crop of youngsters to have been given a chance by Rodgers, it has been with the improved showing of the squad’s senior players that Liverpool have started to climb up the table.
Andre Wisdom, Raheem Sterling and Suso will get their chances again – along with Jonjo Shelvey and the injured Martin Kelly – but the quintet have had only three starts between them in the last seven games.
Liverpool’s sprint for the finishing line may have come too late to secure Europa League qualification, with the Anfield outfit effectively hoping either Chelsea or Arsenal implode during the final weeks given only fifth place will guarantee European football next season.
There’s a school of thought that being out of the Thursday-Sunday-Thursday schedule would benefit the domestic aspirations of Rodgers’ men.
But the Europa League has been beneficial in giving youngsters an opportunity.
In building a competitive squad, Rodgers will want as many games as possible.