West Ham’s new signings have taken most of the plaudits following the club’s impressive start to this Premier League campaign but Stewart Downing, playing in a new role, has been the star man.
Sam Allardyce tinkered with his formations throughout pre-season and even three games into the league he was not convinced what would be the most effective way to get the best out of his squad.
He was originally opting for a 4-3-3, but following a late tactical switch against Hull he changed it to a 4-4-2 diamond and it would seem he has stumbled upon the perfect remedy.
Down but not out
Downing has had his critics in the past; he was a star at Middlesbrough, did well at Aston Villa and was something of a flop at Liverpool.
However, against his former club on Saturday he looked transformed playing in a central attacking role, marking Steven Gerrard out of the match and orchestrating a remarkable 3-1 victory against a side that finished second in the league last season and had deemed him not good enough.
At 30, Downing is turning into a seasoned veteran; he has the experience and knowledge of the game to apply himself more effectively now than he ever did when he was working his way into the England setup.
Faults were there
He was prone to making mistakes, conceding possession cheaply and failing to produce a quality delivery when it mattered most.
The winger has always had great potential but in his younger days was perhaps too eager to impress, whereas now he is shining at West Ham through doing the simple things to great effect.
In this new diamond system Downing has staked his claim for a permanent role in the heart of the team, playing behind the two strikers and providing an attacking thrust to the side.
In a season were entertaining football is pivotal for Allardyce, Downing could be the key to helping to save his job.
In the five Premier League games thus far the midfielder has registered three assists and managed to score a great goal, but most importantly he has created 16 chances.
Playing centrally has allowed him to control matches and dictate West Ham’s performances; he drives with the ball and has the ability and vision to pick out a cutting pass.
For a side that needs to play attractive football and make the climb into the top half of the league table, this could be instrumental in their season.
They only scored 40 goals in the entire campaign last term, they have nine already this time around and Downing has had a big hand in that, which begs the question, does he deserve another chance in the international side?
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