Although football is a team game, at times, there’s that one player who leads from the front with his exemplary performances. For Southampton, in the 2019-20 season, it was Danny Ings.
Without the former Liverpool striker, the Saints were literally facing relegation and the odds were stacked against them right from the start of the season.
The chances of Southampton saving their Premier League status were just 12% and without his 22 goals, they would have definitely been relegated.
Danny Ings alone won the club 23 points, which is 44% of the total points they accumulated in the recently-concluded Premier League season.
Very few know that Danny Ings used to train with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at Southampton’s academy. He was then invited for a trial at Bournemouth when he was 15, and in spite of his injury issues, Cherries boss, Eddie Howe gave him an initial three-month professional deal.
He had to prove his talent to make a name for himself and it came in the form of a loan spell at Dorchester in the autumn of 2010. In the words of Danny Ings:
“It was probably the best bit of development for me because I was playing with fully grown men. I was only 18 and was getting kicked about, but at the same time I was scoring goals and coming into my own. Then I came back and we went on a good run and ended up getting into the [League One] play-offs.”
Danny Ings in the Premier League
Danny Ings is not new to the Premier League. He has been plying his trade in the division since the 2014-15 season, initially with Burnley, and has had his fair share of ups and downs.
He actually endured more lows because of his injury issues, which kept him out of the pitch for almost entire seasons. After helping Burnley earn promotion to the Premier League by scoring 26 Championship goals, Ings was one of the hottest strikers to look forward to in the English top-flight in 2014-15.
And the Englishman did not disappoint as he scored 11 goals and four assists in 35 league appearances, but it wasn’t enough to help the Clarets avoid relegation.
Liverpool soon snapped him up for £8 million, with the then-Reds boss, Brendan Rodgers being a big admirer of Danny Ings.
Ings stayed at Anfield for three seasons but managed just 25 appearances across all competitions, with the striker finding the back of the net four times.
His time on Merseyside was unfortunately plagued with injuries related to his ligaments and right knee. But the fire in his belly never died and his determination made Brendan Rodgers’ successor, Jurgen Klopp hand him chances whenever he was fit.
In the end, the Reds’ patience ran out, and also with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino in the team, it was getting difficult for Ings to get game time.
In the positive interest of all parties involved, Danny Ings was loaned out to Southampton for the 2018-19 season with a purchase option, so that he could rejuvenate his career under a new manager in a new environment.
Ings grabbed the opportunity with both hands and started getting his mojo back. His return of seven goals and three assists in 24 Premier League outings made Southampton’s decision of signing him permanently for £18 million a lot easier, ahead of the 2019-20 season.
Danny Ings in 2019-20
Danny Ings was in sensational form for the Saints in the Premier League this season and his stats speak for themselves.
He ended the campaign with 22 league goals and narrowly missed out on the Premier League Golden Boot, which was won by Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy, who had 23 strikes to his name.
The most important statistic to be noted here is that 21 out of his 22 goals have come from open play, and as mentioned earlier, he missed out on the Premier League Golden Boot by just one goal.
Moreover, he hit the woodwork six times, joint highest in the division with Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford.
At the age of 28, the striker has his peak years ahead of him and if he can keep up his goalscoring exploits, he will be one of the most feared strikers in the Premier League.
Apart from taking more shots on target, he has remarkably improved the play-making side of his game too. During his time at Burnley, Danny Ings used to wait for the ball to come to him and relied on crosses from the flanks for goalscoring opportunities.
But at Southampton, he initiates the play or the counter-attacks by sitting deep in his half and defending from the front. He has improved his ball-holding capabilities and defensive attributes, with the England international having 40 clearances to his name.
Danny Ings’ goalscoring form can be based on a number of factors – shooting from better positions, pressing intensity, awareness and intelligent movement.
Under Ralph Hasenhuttl, Ings looks like he will continue getting into good goalscoring positions by virtue of his movements and awareness, and being the ruthless finisher he is, the striker is expected to find the back of the net more often than not.
With Ings evolving his playing style, he can target at least 15-20 goals per season, even while playing for a mid-table club like Southampton.
Ings has shown maturity in being the prime focal point at Southampton, and part of the credit goes to the Saints manager, Ralph Hasenhuttl, who has done wonders with him and changed his tactics as per the former Liverpool man’s style of play.
The Austrian tactician took charge of Southampton in December 2018, midway through Danny Ings’ first season at the St Mary’s Stadium.
Both the player and the manager have transformed Southampton’s vision and achievements, and the Saints faithful can expect more fireworks next season.