Stewart Downing has looked in top form in the opening two Premier League matches and could be vital if West Ham are to push on and better their 13th place finish last term.
The former Liverpool winger scored in the Hammers’ 3-1 victory against Crystal Palace last week and has been one of the early stand-out performers for the side.
At 30, Downing is now the complete player and has gained a wealth of experience at the top levels of the game.
He has competed in the Champions League and at international level although it could be argued that he never quite reached his full potential.
However, if the early signs are anything to go by, this season could be one of the best individually for the wideman to date.
His all round play is superb, he has a great left-foot and can provide expert deliveries into the penalty area which the new forwards, Enner Valencia, Diafra Sakho and Mauro Zarate, will thrive on.
He also no longer needlessly loses possession like he used to be prone to do quite often and provides a much needed attacking thrust to the West Ham team.
His defensive work has improved immensely, too, with him deployed in a left wing-back role on occasions in preseason
One of the big bones of contention between the Hammers board and manager Sam Allardyce was said to be the signing of Downing.
Big Sam snapped up the winger from Liverpool in a £6million deal instead of purchasing Wilfried Bony, which went against co-chairmen David Sullivan’s wishes.
This provoked the manager to trump his signing after his starring performance against Palace in a risky sly dig at the board.
“He’s one of the best I’ve signed. His all-round game and qualities are fabulous,” said the West Ham boss.
“There is always that one edge that we said we didn’t get last year which was to get a few more goals. But the way he has started this season I think that may be changing.”
Allardyce hails Downing
It took Downing 36 games last season to break his scoring duck, this time round he has taken just two and Allardyce insisted that it may have come earlier.
“He could have scored the winner last week against Tottenham but for a great save by the goalkeeper,” added the manager.
“He scored a brilliant goal against Palace and that will give him the confidence to go and get four or five for us this year.
“But his all-round game, there’s not a better player in our team who handles the ball, manipulates the ball, switches play, provides crosses and then gets back to protect the full back.
“He’s an outstanding player from those angles and if he can get a few more goals he will be even better.”
It is a bold statement for Allardyce to make to the board who questioned his judgement on transfers, but if Downing can continue to find the form he has shown so far this season then there will be few who question him in the future.
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