Indeed the 28-year-old insists a cursory glance through the attacking options at Brendan Rodgers‘ disposal is all the motivation required to maintain maximum effort.
“All I need to do is look at the bench to remind myself that I have to keep performing well,” Downing explained to the official Liverpool FC magazine. “There is real competition for places, especially since Daniel [Sturridge] and [Philippe] Coutinho arrived in January. You have lads like Raheem [Sterling] waiting for a chance too. It means if you’re not playing well you’ll be hauled off.
“I’m sure the manager will also be looking to add to the squad in the summer. He’s told me I’m part of his long-term plans, which was great to hear. Now I have to ensure that continues to be the case.”
Such a reversal in fortunes seemed unlikely at the outset of 2012-13, when the former Middlesbrough and Aston Villa winger was out of the team and informed he could leave Anfield.
But as the England international approaches the second anniversary of his transfer to the Reds, he can happily target several more years in a Liverpool jersey.
“Some lads hit it off straight away at a new club. Others don’t. In my case it took longer than I obviously wanted,” he continued. “I’m glad it’s clicked now and I have the chance to continue playing for a big club. I’ve always believed I could do well here. I’ve done that over the last few months and want to continue doing so for the remainder of this season and the years to come.
“Brendan challenged me to get goals and I’ve chipped in with a few. In the league I struggled in that area last season. I think that was the case for the whole team.
“They have been coming of late — I even scored a header at Wigan. It’s nice to get different types of goals. I think the manager doesn’t look too closely at stats — he’s told me all that matters is playing well.”
Rodgers has often preferred a front four since Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge joined his project in January, with Downing regularly stationed on the right hand side.
All three players — in addition to Luis Suarez — have license to roam, however.
“Flexibility is what it’s about,” Downing added. “We’ve done a lot of work on the system on the training ground.
“If you look at the top teams you need players who can move around. Gareth Bale is a prime example. Lately he’s not been on the wing — he’s been all over the place causing havoc.
“I think we’ve got that dimension now. Daniel has come in and complemented Luis very well. You have pace in behind while the other comes short to do his magic.
“Coutinho’s able to move about, too, and that makes life very hard for the opposition. It’s an area where we should improve as we all learn about playing with each other.
“I know I’ve certainly become more tactically aware. I think I now have a better idea of where to be and when to be there.”
Powered by WordPress.com VIP