Danny Ings' redemption at Southampton has been exemplary
- Dannys Ings' mercurial recovery at Southampton is worth keeping an eye on.
Danny Ings has been a prominent name in the Premier League goalscoring charts this season. The 27-year-old striker is Premier League's third highest goalscorer with 14 in 25 appearances; only Jamie Vardy and Sergio Aguero have scored more.
However, Ings hasn't always been so productive. After scoring 11 goals for Burnley in 2015, he failed to save the Clarets from relegation and joined Liverpool. At the Merseyside club, he faced several injury issues; Ings was spending his time on the sidelines when Jurgen Klopp was planning a rebuild.
In his first two seasons at Anfield, he was injured for a total of 500 days. This led Klopp to look for alternatives. Roberto Firmino was bought and Ings went down the pecking order. Once touted as a potential English No. 9, Ings suffered a massive blow and his confidence was shattered.
Ings then moved southwards to settle at Southampton. The deal was a season-long loan which became a permanent move in July 2019 for a fee of £18 million.
He regained his form soon, scoring seven and assisting three in the 2018-19 season as Southampton skipped relegation. And this season he has been on an absolute scoring spree.
When Che Adams was signed £15m last summer, Ings' chances of starting seemed in jeopardy. Fast forward eight months, and Adams is yet to score a goal while Ings is in the form of his life.
He is single-handedly keeping the Saints out of the relegation zone, being involved in more than 50% of their goals. Ings' clinical finishing and ruthlessness in front of goal are reinforced by the fact that he is overperforming his xG of 10.21 against 14 goals in the league.
Compared to last season where he underperformed, scoring eight goals against an xG tally of 10.86, this is a significant increase and shows how his confidence and morale have sky-rocketed.
The main reason behind Ings' electrifying form is his ability to get to the right place at the right time. He is taking more shots from inside the six-yard box this season and scoring from tight angles; his instinctive and natural finishing does the rest of the work. Moreover, Ings' movement off the ball and running down the channels show how positionally well-aware he is.
Ralph Hasenhüttl sets up his team in a classic 4-4-2 formation. Shane Long handles the work of dropping deep and being a support striker to the 'poacher' Ings. While Long drops deep and lures defenders, Ings finds acres of space behind the defenders' shoulders to facilitate the long balls, winning more than 2.5 aerial duels per 90. This is a clear-cut strategy for teams either with deeper blocks or with an advanced defensive setup.
Ings' defensive contribution is really good for a side like Southampton. He averages more than 3 recoveries per 90 this season. Unfortunately enough, no player other than Nathan Redmond makes penetrative forward runs, so Ings has to pass it backward.
He is not a flat track bully who stat-pads against weaker teams. Ings' consistency is his greatest strength. The English international has scored against Leicester, Tottenham (twice), Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool too.
All in all, Ings has turned into a reliable goalscorer who can easily score around 20 goals per season. In a market where teams struggle to find experienced natural finishers, Ings is a great prospect for any club.
Southampton will find it hard to keep Ings next season. His above-average pace, pressing intensity, awareness and intelligent movement make him a valuable package. His renaissance at St. Mary's Stadium proves that anything is possible for him.Published 13 Feb 2020, 20:50 IST