Reaction to England Euro 2012 squad: the Stewart Downing puzzle
After having plenty of time to digest the England squad for Euro 2012, there is one name on the sheet that is still bamboozling me.
This individual is, of course, Stewart Downing of Liverpool.
The left-footed winger was one of many flops introduced by Kenny Dalglish in the summer and despite featuring in the majority of games this season for Liverpool, he never provided an assist, quite unbelievable for a Premier League winger.
Apparently, the new England manager Roy Hodgson has seen enough in Downing’s performances to reward him with a place in the England squad that will travel to Poland and Ukraine for this summer’s tournament.
When I first saw the squad, I raised eyebrows over the inclusions of Jermaine Defoe and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but on reflection, I can see why Roy has opted to go with these two players. Defoe is a natural goal scorer, perhaps our only one now that Darren Bent has been ruled out. As for Oxlade-Chamberlain, he has the raw ability and fearless nature to trouble defences at this level.
Downing, on the other hand, will bring nothing to the party.
With Theo Walcott providing good width on one side, it would be an effective strategy to have a similar player on the other side, someone who will hug the touchline and run at defenders.
The two names that popped into my head were Adam Johnson and Matt Jarvis. Of the two, Johnson is more of a household name, and despite not playing much football due to the all-star squad of Man City, he always makes an impact when coming off the bench; his performances have rarely disappointed. He also provides more of a threat in front of goal and is very left footed, just like Stewart Downing.
Matt Jarvis was, surprisingly, never in contention – probably because he played in a team who were eventually relegated. The Wolverhampton Wanderers wide man has proven his credentials during his period in the Premier League and at times has given elite players a torrid time.
Personally, I would have taken Jarvis to the Championships this summer. He can take players on in a one-on-one situation, and crosses well with both feet, qualities that could prove priceless during a short-format tournament.
Both of these players can offer everything that Downing can, and more, which is why I am so baffled by the decision to book him a place on the plane.
Granted, he plays with Andy Carroll every week. With Rooney suspended for the first two games, the pony-tailed centre-forward could spearhead the attack. But the two haven’t exactly built a formidable partnership at Liverpool. Jarvis would offer a more direct dimension to the England attack and his pin point delivery could benefit Carroll as he seems to be hitting form at just the right time.
We can only hope that Downing can miraculously turn his form on its head for these European Championships. If he doesn’t, the England attack could look unbalanced and rather predictable.
The up side is that England has two progressive full backs in Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson who will look to be on the front foot every time they retain possession, so at least we won’t be devoid of attacking options.
For now, we just have to hope that Stewart Downing will be looking to impress his new manager whilst being on international duty this summer.