Big Sam is a notorious stat man who reads into individual facts and figures more so than most managers.
With this being the case, he would have loved the personal attributes of Stewart Downing who was simply brilliant against Hull on Monday.
Although a lot of the plaudits went to Valencia for that absolute peach of a strike, Downing thrived in a ‘free’ midfield role that fans have rarely seen him play in. If Downing continues to play in this role, he could give Allardyce a huge midfield headache as one of Alex Song, Mark Noble and Cheikou Kouyate could be forced to miss out.
When Downing’s ‘player dashboard’ is analysed, it’s clear to see that he exerted his influence all over the midfield. In previous games, Downing has shown that he has a good passing range, often switching the play with accurate long balls, showing another side to his renowned wing play.
Out of the 60 passes that he attempted, he completed a very impressive 58 of them, resulting in the best passing percentage of the match with a 97% pass success rate. Also, 26 of those passes were made in the attacking third, with Downing completing all of them except one.
Clearly, there is more to Downing’s game than running down the wing. Allardyce recently stated that the English midfielder was one of the most talented players he has worked with. Although the player has suffered a lot of stick, especially during his time at Liverpool, he really is proving his worth at West Ham, and his unquestionable talent is clearly being rediscovered.
Playing Downing in this new free role could lead to more tactical variation for West Ham. Tracking a player with the license to roam is a difficult task and, like Downing on Monday night, it can be very effective if the player exploits the position properly. This appears to be the first time Downing has featured in this position for West Ham and it would surprise me if it was to be the last. His clever assist for Diafra Sakho’s shot that led directly to the own goal capped off a fine display by Downing.
A lot of fans were really pleased with the Hull performance as the team played like a West Ham side who knew how to play the much coveted ‘West Ham way.’ Although there were a number of good individual performances, Downing’s efforts in his new role show that he could, rather bizarrely, be the key to the new attacking style that is trying to be implemented into this new West Ham team.
Liverpool are up next for West Ham on Saturday and I would imagine that Downing still has a bone to pick with Brendan Rogers and co when they visit the Boleyn Ground.
It would be incredibly satisfying to see him produce a similar display to Monday’s fixture against Liverpool, let’s hope he shows them what they’re missing.