First off, after reading the comments to Rob's FanShot, I have one thing to say: There are far too many Flyers fans on this blog, and by too many, I mean any (kidding, kidding. Kind of).
Now that's out of the way, we have news to discuss. Stewart Downing's fee has been agreed, though I haven't seen that personal terms have been locked down. Still, I doubt he'll be asking for the 250K a week that Wesley Sneijder is supposedly asking from United. Though if he were the sheer comedic theater that would be is immeasurable.
I've been pretty clear that I wasn't a Downing fan. I don't think he has any pace, and from what i can tell he can cross a ball and that's about it. I would hope for more from my wingers, to be able to beat a man and create havoc by getting in behind, and also to pop up occasionally in goal scoring areas. Downing only seems to do the latter of those three. Not that his crossing is something we can't use, it most certainly is. Liverpool don't have anyone who can cross a ball in open play, aside from Steven Gerrard who finds himself less and less in wide areas these days, and as he gets older that will probably decrease even more.
However, in this new age of Liverpool, everyone wants to find some stat to justify everything, while I slowly try and transfer my baseball sensibilities (total sabermetric freak) over to footy. Downing did complete the most amount of crosses last year, while Liverpool as a team were second worst. Clearly this will help. But there are some other numbers that I don't know what to make of.
Last season at Villa, Downing had seven goals and seven assists in the league, which I think are totals we'll probably take this season. But Villa were piss poor this year. The season before, when Villa were actually pretty good, he managed only two goals and one assist, albeit it in 16 less games. So can he only flourish in a bad team? That season was the only one he's ever played in an even average team. Yes, Downing usually shows up for work every day, but I'd like to think we can aim a bit higher these days than simple durability.
Maybe at 27 it's Downing just being a case of a late-bloomer. Maybe last year is when everything finally came together. You could make that argument, I won't stop you. Maybe being surrounded by a higher caliber player than he ever has brings the best out of him. But what's his main weapon? Crossing. But Dalglish is not going to send his stall out to simply feed the ball to Downing to then fire it in the general direction of Andy Carroll (with Charlie Adam firing it in the general direction of no one beforehand). Can Downing play in a passing and moving side? Can he make something of the more limited chances he has to cross due to style? Or will a team that's able to actually stand upright for more than eight consecutive seconds open up more space and time for what he does best? I don't have an answer for any of this.
As for formation, I guess we can sort of bank on a 4-3-3 that can morph into a 4-2-3-1. Downing-Carroll-Suarez up top, leaving...(hang on, let me take a deep breath here) Gerrard, Adam, Henderson, Meireles, Lucas, Spearing, and Aquilani to survive the midfield Royal Rumble to get into the midfield three. I suppose Henderson can slide up top on the right side when Suarez can't. Let's be optimistic here and say we're done in midfield for the summer.
In the past week, Liverpool have spent close to 30 million on maybe not the best player from a team that was relegated, and maybe not the best player from a team that was almost relegated. I get it, not having any European football does not make you an attractive option. Juan Mata was never going to happen, no matter how hard I shut my eyes and wished it. It could next year, maybe, if he's still at Valencia and they're still an actual club (never know with them). But when you read that Villa are turning around and trying to pry Charles N'Zogbia for half the money you just forked over for Stewart Downing, you can't help but pause.
I get the British tax on any transfer. And Liverpool are trying to get in under the home-grown rule. But at some point, after all these British buys, you have to remind yourself that there's a reason the national teams from the Isles absolutely blow, for the most part.
As I say whenever I write something like this, I would absolutely love to be wrong.