‘I was slated for saying it but could Flynn Downes play a key role for us this season?’

The midfielder shouldn’t be viewed as Rice’s replacement and given a chance to prove himself

Flynn Downes (WHU) at the West Ham United v Chelsea EPL match, at the London Stadium, London, UK on February 11, 2023.

The future of 24-year-old Flynn Downes has sparked a lot of debate. In fact, I tweeted a few months ago saying that I felt Downes could be a solid defensive midiflder and got eaten alive. 

The backlash was so bad that I ended up deleting the tweet, however,I still stand by what I said. Let me explain. The question of whether or not Downes is a ‘Rice replacement’ is a completely separate one. 

In fact, I don’t believe there are many players in the world that could match that level of ability, so I’m certainly not comparing the two. It’s also not to say that we couldn’t find somebody more talented than Downes, or with more Premier League experience, because we could also spend money and do that.

But given the fact that we need to spend wisely to stay on the right side of Financial Fair Play Regulations, I think we could spend elsewhere and take a chance on Downes, rather than buy somebody to take that spot. Have we been spoilt by having a world-class defensive midfielder and we now think we need to have one of those to compete in the Premier League? Perhaps. 

Hear me out with this one, but I think we could perform better as a team by investing money in a few positions this window, rather than spending most of our budget on two defensive midfielders. This of course begs the question is Flynn Downes the answer in this position?

From what we’ve seen so far, Downes has potential. He’s worked hard when given the opportunity in the first team and has room to continue improving. These characteristics were the same ones that we saw in a young Rice, back when he began playing for us.

And if we never give those outside of the usual starting XI an opportunity to show what they can do, what’s the point in keeping them at the club? For somebody that has had relatively little game-time, particularly at Premier League standard, Downes does a solid job of controlling the midfield. 

He’s passionate and gets stuck in, which is something we need from every West Ham player. In terms of the downsides of Flynn’s game, he is perhaps a little too feisty at times in tackles, as well as chatting back to the referee and has room to sharpen up almost every aspect of his game.

You can see he is eager to work for the badge and that is something that I personally believe will take a relatively talented footballer a lot further than they’d go with more talent and an ego. But where is his limit? We won’t know unless we put it to the test.

It is a bit of a risk, but by investing in a Soucek replacement this window, I think that could be enough, leaving us with Paqueta, a new signing (for example, JWP) and alternating between Downes and Soucek; whoever performs best. Ultimately, do I think Downes will be the best defensive midfielder in the league next season? No, but would I rather spend the money on other positions that will benefit the team as a whole? Yes, unless we can get an absolute bargain.

Don’t get me wrong, in a dream world, I would be buying two proven defensive midfielders who have long-term experience. But in this case, I think this calculated risk could be the way to go. We can then focus some of our attention on the positions that will contribute towards scoring goals, or stopping them going in the back of our net – where I think we have more urgent priorities.

For me, now is Downes’ time to prove what he’s capable of and show us whether he is ready to step up into the Premier League or not. It’s certainly going to be interesting to see what happens.

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