Stats aren’t everything.
John Terry has scored more career goals than Andres Iniesta.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has squandered more ‘big chances’ than any other Premier League player this season.
And Lionel Messi spends less time sprinting than pretty much every other player in Europe.
Sometimes, the numbers can lead you astray…
In 2011/12, Stewart Downing ended the Premier League season with no goals or assists.
He featured in 36 of Liverpool’s 38 league games… playing almost exclusively as a winger.
So, how did he manage such a feat?
Downing signed for Liverpool from Aston Villa in the summer of 2011 for a fee in the region of £20million.
Seven years ago, £20m was still a notable transfer fee — in fact, it was the fifth highest fee for a Premier League player that window.
Kenny Dalglish also recruited Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam, Jose Enrique, Sebastian Coates and a 32-year-old Craig Bellamy.
Hindsight has not been kind to this spending spree.
“Sometimes you are on a run and get goals; sometimes you don’t,” Downing told the media in 2012.
To inadvertently achieve a goalless season from an attacking position, you need luck against you.
Downing hit the woodwork five times over the course of the season — only four players in the whole league were frustrated by the frame more than him in 2011/12.
The Boro-born winger let off 72 shots throughout the campaign, averaging 2.62 efforts per 90 minutes.
That’s ever so slightly more than 2.6 shots per 90 mins he managed for Villa the season before.
Downing scored seven goals and provided seven assists in 2010/11.
Obviously, you want your wingers to chip in with a few goals but they’re main job is to provide the forwards with excellent service.
So how did Downing manage to end the season without an assist?
Well, big Andy Carroll was experiencing a tough time in front of goal himself.
The Geordie target man scored just four goals in 35 league games the season Downing went barren.
Should Carroll have converted at least one of Downing’s crosses? Probably.
Liverpool’s other main striker? A bloke by the name of Luis Suarez…
Remember those four people who hit the woodwork more than Downing? Suarez was one of them.
Liverpool’s prolific No7 hit the post/bar eight times — second only to Robin van Persie.
The woodwork frustrated Downing, even when he wasn’t the player striking it.
Suarez scored 11 league goals in his first full Premier League season and was still acclimatising to life in England.
Had Downing been whipping in balls to the Uruguayan at his peak, he surely would have had an assist to show for his efforts in 2011/12?
Downing created 55 chances without one of them being converted in 2011/12.
“I’ve constantly set up chances, season in and season out,” said Downing at the time.
“I can’t be criticised for not creating. I’ve just been unlucky that we’ve not finished the chances.”
While it’s true that it’s unusual for not one of 55 chances to have resulted in a goal, his point about creating ‘season in and season out’ does not quite stand up.
The season before he created 85 chances for Aston Villa, significantly more than his fruitless Liverpool campaign.
It wasn’t until after the new year that casual fans became aware of Downing’s drought.
Once it hit the mainstream, Downing’s stats (or lack thereof) became a running joke and perhaps the pressure impacted his late season form, as he desperately sought to get off the mark in either department.
“Statistics have taken over the game: he doesn’t score this, he hasn’t set up that. You can read into it as you like,” said Downing.
In truth, his overall form was not that of a man out of his depth.
His stats do not accurately reflect his efforts for the team and his numbers in the domestic cups made for more pleasant reading.
Downing score twice in six games as Liverpool reached the FA Cup final.
And he was Man of the Match in the League Cup final as the Reds edged out Cardiff on penalties.
So while it may have been far from the worst season ever endured, the zeros in his league goal and assist columns for 2011/12 will always be there.
Poor Stewie, he didn’t deserve such cruel luck.
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