In case you missed it here, Sky is reporting today that Liverpool have put up an offer for Aston Villa's leading scorer, Stewart Downing. The winger has been one of the few consistently bright spots for the Villa offense this season, scoring five goals in league play. When he's being used appropriately on the left wing, Downing has been a creative force as well, adding three assists to the aforementioned goals. He's also been a part of the renewed emphasis on speed up the wings, working with Marc Albrighton to open up Villa's game at time and make it one of the most rewarding experiences to watch.
No word yet on what Liverpool have offered, but there are reports that Villa turned down a £12 million offer from Sunderland last week. The move, if accepted, would likely be for more than the Sunderland offer, and would make some financial sense given the impending £18 million out the window for Darren Bent.
You'd probably expect me to hate this offer, and be laying on the ground kicking and screaming. And in truth, I sort of want to be. But it's not hard to see some excellent reasons to make the move. This weekend served as yet another example of Gérard Houllier playing Stewie out of position. Sometime in the first half, we saw the 26 year old moved to the center, and Villa's surprisingly aggressive attack seized up almost instantly. This isn't the first time Houllier has pulled him out of position either. We've had a few games where Downing was running up and down the right wing, which makes no sense whatsoever.
Stewie obviously has the ability to be a driving force in the Villa offense, but only if he's used properly, which Gérard doesn't seem to want to do. And I suppose I'm ok with that. I can't write, week after week, that we should trust Houllier, and then be mad when his system doesn't include my favorite player. Maybe his system is a more traditional attack, with strength up the middle. It doesn't make much sense to me, but I think we've got to give him the chance to build something.
And you can't deny the importance of making sure Villa stay in the black. I know we've got to worry about relegation, but if that happens, there will be enough financial trouble. Having a huge wage bill (that we have to sell off at pennies to the dollar) won't help us bounce back up next season. And if we avoid the drop, the huge wage bill will portend problems down the line.
But on a personal level, I'd hate to see Stewie go. I had the fortune of not seeing him last season, and so I didn't have the frustration with him of many Villa fans. He impressed me in the preseason matches, and I ignored everyone's warning and decided he'd be my favorite player. And he's rewarded the choice. When all the cylinders are firing, he and Marc make this team amazing to watch. Remember this? That's Villa at their best, and it'd be a real shame to lose that.
But, as Aaron talked about with Eric Lichaj, I like the team first. I didn't decide that Stewie would be my favorite player because he was good, but rather because he was good and wore claret and blue. We cheer "Up the Villa" and "I'm Villa 'til I Die," not "Up the Downing" (that's just confusing) or "I'm Stewie 'til I Die" (I'm not, I'm Robert). So if you leave, Stewie, I wish you well. That is until we play Liverpool. Then I hope you cry when you lose 7-0.