With the Premier League season now seven games old as we head into a crucial International break where the places for this summer’s World Cup in Brazil could be decided, it seems an apt time to analyse just how West Ham United new boy Stewart Downing is adjusting to life in East London after a more than tumultuous spell further North with Liverpool.
Downing has made six appearances in all competitions thus far for the Hammers following his £6million summer transfer and has been used in a number of different roles by manager Sam Allardyce as the experienced coach looks to find the right balance of efficiency and flair in his team. So far this season West Ham have looked to do away with the seemingly fair assessment that Sam Allardyce teams often look to play ‘boring’ football with the introduction of talented youngster Ravel Morrison to the middle of the midfield, which has worked a treat so far.
Out of the seven Premier League matches West Ham have played this campaign, Downing has featured in five of them with two of those aforementioned appearances coming from the substitutes bench.
With Andy Carroll entering the season injured and Carlton Cole having no longer been required the West Ham front line has been very sparsely populated this season and the effects of that have been plain for all to see with the Hammers scoring only seven goals in the first seven games.
Stewart Downing’s performances also appeared to be affected by the lack of quality and height in the West Ham frontline in his early appearances with the former Middlesbrough winger not registering a single assist in his opening four West Ham appearances.
With his all round midfield play showing glimpses of quality there was hope Downing could gradually improve and boost Allardyce’s creative options however an injury suffered in a defeat to Stoke City on the final day of August saw Downing out of action for just under a month until the late September when he returned in the defeat to Hull City.
Due to this injury Stewart Downing has missed arguably what would have been the key point of his early West Ham career in the sense that he had come through the initial settling in period of pre-season and the opening month of the Barclays Premier League and the stage was set for him then to push on and really add some quality and lest we forget, experience to the West Ham United team however the injury suffered against Stoke has prevented him from progressing to the second stage of his West Ham career. He has been unable to play much football at all after settling in at the club which will have done his confidence no good whatsoever.
After twenty minutes against Hull City in his comeback fixture Downing was then given a starting place for Sunday’s 3-0 derby victory at White Hart Lane and registered his first full ninety minutes for the club. Downing didn’t have a great game with his usual style of wingplay not utilised fully in an obscure 4-6-0 turned 5-5-0 formation used by Sam Allardyce in an attempt to frustrate Andre Villas-Boas’ charges at White Hart Lane. It was a very narrow looking West Ham side which looked to catch Tottenham on the break through the middle with the pace of Morrison and as such Downing on the left hand side didn’t have an awful lot to contribute.
It would be unfair to lambast Downing for having not yet made a sizable impact since signing for West Ham with the month long injury lay-off he suffered causing significant disruption to both his confidence and form however the return of no goals and no assists from a £6million winger after six matches is definitely a cause for concern.
The next month following the international period will be the real tell-tale sign of Downing’s fortunes at Upton Park. We believe he is now injury free and should be able to play in West Ham’s next few matches, it is unlikely we will see a repeat of the 4-6-0 formation in the two trips to Swansea City and then Burnley in the League Cup so those may be the two fixtures we will see Stewart Downing in his most effective position.