Wednesday, 14 August 2013

New Signing: Stewart Downing

Stewart Downing

DOB: 22/07/1984
Age: 29
Position: Winger

Previous Club: Liverpool
Previous Division: Premier League

Transfer Date: 13/08/2013
Reported Fee: £6,000,000


After what feels like an eternity, West Ham yesterday concluded their fifth transfer of the summer. England winger Stewart Downing has rocked up in East London to join a growing contingent of British players at the Hammers.

He may not be the 'right sided striker' we've all been expecting (promised?), but this is certainly a signing to be happy with. The early indications are that the signing of Downing will draw a mixed reception from Irons supporters. I've seen responses as varied as genuine excitement and a belief that we have signed a top class player, right through to people openly stating they would boo him on Saturday!

Personally, I'm not entirely sure why Downing has received such a mixed reception. Whilst I've always questioned his international credentials, I am a fan of Stewart, and believe that he will fit in perfectly at West Ham.

Something the club seemed to lack last season was a bit of creativity. Of course, we had Matt Jarvis delivering ball after ball into the box, but it felt on occasion that Jarvis was one of the only creative outlets the side had.

Well, looking at stats from the season just gone, Downing completely outstrips Jarvis (and all West Ham's wingers) in terms of chances created. The England winger created a whopping 66 chances last season, bagging five assists, and producing at a rate of one chance created every 33 minutes.

Jarvis created 46 chances at a rate of one every 55.6 minutes, collecting 0 assists. Joe Cole was West Ham's most frequent creator, setting up a goalscoring opportunity once every 42.3 minutes.

Some might point to the fact that Downing spent last season playing in a side that enjoyed far more possession of the ball, and therefore he was always bound to create more chances than West Ham's wingers. Well, whilst that argument may be true, it is probably important to pit Downing's performance against some of his team mates.

Well, Downing created a chance every 33.2 minutes. This is equal to Luis Suarez (33.2 minutes), and betters Steven Gerrard (35.0 minutes), Philippe Coutinho (46.2 minutes) and Raheem Sterling (47.2 minutes).

The following charts show the number of chances created and assists, and then the number of minutes per chance created, compared to West Ham's wingers.

Not only does Downing create a higher frequency than his new team mates, but he also plays in a style that will suit West Ham.

Despite playing in a side that isn't particularly well known for their crossing into the box, Downing whipped a ball into the area once ever 15.7 minutes. Whilst this sits him behind the likes of Jarvis (11.6), Cole (10.7) & Taylor (11.4), it does suggest that Downing's intention when getting on the ball out wide is in a similar vein to his new colleagues.

What is particularly promising about this, is that his success rate is equal to both Jarvis and Cole (28%), and betters both Taylor (25%) and Vaz Te (24%).

Since the appointment of Sam Allardyce an important part of any wide player's role is to help out his fullback. Indeed, even the rather enigmatic Ricardo Vaz Te was involved with some kind of defensive action (successful tackle, clearance, block, interception) once ever 22 minutes last season.

Again, Downing fits seamlessly into this style of play. Downing completed a defensive action once ever 31.3 minutes, better than both Joe Cole (32.1) and Matt Jarvis (39.4).

He also put in a joint high 19 successful tackles, and was second to only Vaz Te when it came to intercepting play.

The chart below shows a breakdown of defensive actions completed by each player last season.

A final area to mention, is versatility. It's often been said that Allardyce likes a player with more than one position. Well, he has begun to create a very versatile pool of wingers, with each of Downing, Cole, Jarvis and Vaz Te capable of playing on both the left and right wing.

Downing's versatility takes him a step further though.

In the Premier and Europa League's last season, Downing made a total of 32 starts. 25 of these (78%) came off the right wing, and 9% (3) from the left wing. While the remaining 13%, however, saw him deputise at left back.

To conclude, I believe West Ham have just made an extremely positive signing. This is most certainly a signing that strengthen's the overall quality of the squad, which, at the end of the day, is what the club needs.

On the whole, the transfer business this summer has been pretty successful. The players who have come in have all improved the quality of the squad, whist we haven't yet lost anybody who weakens us significantly.

All that remains is for me to welcome Stewart Downing to the club. Here's to a successful four years.

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