How Danny Ings can save goal-shy Southampton

Danny Ings was conspicuous by his absence when Southampton fell to their worst result of the season so far – the 3-0 reverse at Liverpool.

Due to the terms of his loan-to-buy move from the Reds, Ings was ineligible to face Jurgen Klopp’s men.

That was a blow to Mark Hughes, for whom the ex-Bournemouth and Burnley forward has impressed since his arrival at St Mary’s.

A player on the verge of the England squad before a horrible run with injuries, he left Liverpool not because they wanted rid, but because, now 26, he wants to be starting each week and to make up for lost time.

When fit he has added pace and threat to a Southampton attack found all too lacking in the last 18 months.

Ings arrived on the south coast playing catch up in the fitness stakes. He’s had to do extra work to make up the ground. But already, he has shown himself to be a major upgrade on what has gone before; ahead of the trip to Wolves, he had bagged three goals in five games.

Certainly his impact, numbers wise, has been immediate and impressive.

Arriving at Molineux, Ings had been averaging a goal every 118 minutes. His expected goals per 90 (xG90) stood at an outstanding 0.93. Of players to have played in excess of 300 minutes, no-one could match it before Saturday’s fixtures; by way of contrast, Mo Salah (0.88) and Sergio Aguero (0.73) completed the top three – esteemed company.

It is Ings more than anyone else that has Southampton fans hoping that they will avoid another relegation battle this term.

Hughes is looking to solve his side’s goalscoring issues – they managed just 37 in 38 last term and arrived in the West Midlands with just six in six.

To do so, he has elected to do away with the 5-4-1 that ultimately kept them up and adopt a 4-4-2 formation, with Ings alongside either Charlie Austin or Shane Long in attack.

Prior to Liverpool it had brought a mixture of improved performances and results, winning at Crystal Palace, drawing a game they should have won against Brighton – having been 2-0 up – and losing a game they should have drawn against Leicester.

That Leicester game really could have gone either way. So too could the 2-0 loss to Wolves, sealed for the hosts by late goals from Ivan Cavaleiro and Jonny. Throughout the second half it had actually been the Saints in the ascendancy.

Typically Ings was bright and worked hard, noticeably dropping into midfield to help out when required.

But it was a day when chances didn’t fall his way; had the first-half opportunity that saw Rui Patricio deny Mohammed Elyounoussi fallen to the No.9, it may have been a different story. But it didn’t, and across the 90-plus minutes in the Black Country, little did, not down to lack of effort but more lack of inspiration from those charged with producing a supply line.

Wolves had a couple of game-changers on their bench to turn the game; Southampton didn’t and Hughes left Molineux bemoaning his side’s lack of devilment in the final third.

Goals remain the Saints’ major problem in their quest to rise up the table and keep themselves well clear of danger.

The stats show that Ings is a potential 20-goal man and Hughes is looking to put in place a structure to get the best from him. But it remains a work in progress, as highlighted by his lack of chances at Molineux.

Whether the Welshman succeeds will ultimately define their season; Ings is capable, but will he get enough opportunities?

Will Danny Ings score 20 goals for Southampton this season?


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