Dalglish: Downing is better than I thought

Last updated : 20 January 2012 By The Guardian

Downing has yet to score or create one league goal for Liverpool since his big money move from the Midlands, although he did register his first goal for the club in the FA Cup third-round win over Oldham Athletic, and growing criticism of the 27-year-old's performances has prompted Dalglish to defend his summer signing. The Liverpool manager, who has been offered the Serbian striker Milos Krasic by Juventus, believes Downing is still adjusting to life at a higher-profile club and that it has been unfair to play the former Middlesbrough winger in several positions during his debut season at Anfield.

"Stewart is a better player than I thought he was going to be," the Liverpool manager claimed. "I don't think it has been too comfortable for him either because we have played him in three or four positions, so maybe we need to look at ourselves and say we have to be fair to him as well. He is better than what I thought he was. He is quicker than what I thought he was and he is quicker than Carra [Jamie Carragher] thought he was as well."

Downing was replaced by Andy Carroll during Liverpool's dour goalless draw against Stoke City last weekend as Dalglish persisted with three central defenders against Peter Crouch and withdrew a supply line to the £35m forward. The pair have started only 11 games together for Liverpool this season. Dalglish added: "You have to be patient with every new player who comes in. You have to be patient with the older ones at times as well, like we did with Stevie [Gerrard] coming back. Patience is important but the most important thing is having the ability to play and everyone in our squad has the ability to play."

The woodwork has denied Downing a first league goal for Liverpool on four occasions this season while poor finishing from team-mates also accounts for his lack of assists. Dalglish does admit the £20m midfielder has still to adapt to the transition from Villa Park to Anfield.

"Stewart is a fantastic footballer," he added. "He is an England international, he made a big move in the summer to come here, as a few of them did, and with all due respect to the other clubs that he's been at, it is a massive club. He is going to need a little bit of time to get used to his new surroundings, which is only natural. He's put more crosses in than anybody else according to the stats and it is part of his job to put crosses in. It is another part of his job to put them in somewhere where we are going to score goals and it is another job for the team to get in there and put them in the back of the net."