From being forced to train away from Ipswich Town’s first-team squad to becoming a key player in the Championship in just a matter of months, it’s fair to say Flynn Downes is currently living the dream.
He may have been the subject of multiple bids from Premier League side Crystal Palace in the 2020 summer transfer window, but you almost feel he wouldn’t have been a regular starter at Selhurst Park, especially considering the fact he would have had to make a two-tier jump.
Although that move to south London failed to materialise and then going on to make just 24 appearances for the Tractor Boys in League One last term, several clubs in the Championship were said to be monitoring his situation at Portman Road after being demoted to the Under-23s team in Suffolk.
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AFC Bournemouth, Nottingham Forest, Bristol City, Middlesbrough and Stoke City were the Championship quintet all reported to be in the running for his signature – but it proved to be Swansea City who were the quickest to secure his signature in a deal worth up to £2m.
Although Ipswich were keen to get him off the books amid their major rebuilding job in League One, that price tag for someone of the 22-year-old’s quality is a steal and he has certainly made an impression in Wales already, being singled out for praise by boss Russell Martin at the weekend.
With this electric start at the Swansea.com Stadium, despite his side not exactly setting the world alight so far this season, we have delved deeper into his 2021/22 stats.
It may not be the most surprising statistic for Swansea City supporters who have seen him in action, but his 295 minutes on the pitch during his three appearances for the second-tier side just shows how much faith Russell Martin has in the central midfielder to make the step back up to the Championship.
The 35-year-old must have liked what he’s seen from Downes in training to start him in all three games and keep him on for the entirety of games, so this is a real indicator these impressive opening performances from the former Ipswich man are just the tip of the iceberg. And it’s a great reason for Swans fans to be excited too.
One thing they will be able to trust him to do the most is not give the ball away judging by his passing stats. It’s easy enough to rack up 90%+ passing accuracy if you’re just passing backwards, something he could do operating deep in midfield.
But the fact his passing success rate goes down by less than 1% when entering the final third just goes to show much much he takes care of the ball – and his forward passing rate is 87.8% – still an exceptional total.
In turn, this will help to limit the number of counter-attacks the opposition have through lost balls in the middle and help the Swans to keep possession – and this ball retention is a vital cog in manager Martin’s system.
Not only can he pass, but he also has a very decent dribbling success percentage. Again this is vital, not just going forward with attacks, but also to help his side get out of trouble and relieve pressure off their defence when the opposition are camped in the second-tier side’s half.
This is the sort of thing that can both prevent goals and create them, so the fact his teammates know that for every four dribbles the 22-year-old has he will succeed in three of them is a major boost.
And this ability to get out of trouble goes hand-in-hand with the proportion of defensive duals he wins and the eight interceptions he’s made thus far. 73.9% overall but doing even better with 91% against Hull City at the weekend, showing how he’s getting better and better.
The Swans may still operate three at the back – but winning that midfield battle still remains imperative and along with another top-quality central midfielder in Matt Grimes – they know they can count on the two in the middle of the park to step up and be a presence without a third man there.
It remains to be seen whether Downes can be an adequate replacement for Grimes if the 26-year-old departs in the next year amid an expiring contract and interest from elsewhere, but the early signs are looking good.
Could you even go as far as saying he may turn out to be the EFL signing of the summer? Maybe, maybe not, but he’s made a fantastic start to life in Wales. Long may that continue.