Southampton are in the Premier League by the skin of their teeth this season, having finished 17th last term.
The Saints needed to strengthen their squad desperately over the summer to avoid facing another tense season. They did so with some very good signings.
Perhaps their biggest coup over the summer transfer window was securing Danny Ings in a bizarre loan deal that will see him join St Mary’s permanently the following summer.
This may be the signature which will secure Southampton’s survival in the Premier League. This will be a remarkably tough season for the teams that struggled last season, as Premier League newcomers Wolves and Fulham look very strong. Neither are likely to be caught up in a relegation battle, meaning some of last season’s teams will be sucked into the struggle- and Southampton are candidates.
That is why Ings will prove to be invaluable throughout the season. The fact that he only scored three goals for Liverpool in the past three seasons is a deceiving stat. He was outclassed by the other members at Anfield. But that does not mean he will not be fantastic for Southampton.
The best comparison is to look at when he was at Burnley in their first season back in England’s top flight. Sean Dyche’s men were also expected to struggle in the league, but Ings spearheaded an attack that were pivotal at the side’s survival. Even then, he only scored 11 goals in that 2014/15 season, so it was more about when and where he scored rather than how many.
Ings (valued at £7.2m on Transfermarkt.co.uk) has already scored three goals in five games, which, by his standards over the past few seasons, is a great return. The better news for Southampton is that he doesn’t seem like relenting.
The biggest challenge for Southampton, and indeed Ings this season is remaining fit. He missed over 80 games due to injuries and surgery during his three years at Liverpool, and that just cannot happen at the south coast. Liverpool could survive without Ings, Southampton probably cannot, particularly with other injury-prone players like Charlie Austin and Shane Long on the books. The Saints will have to wrap him in bubblewrap or something for this season, as he has already been threatened with a few minor injuries already during his time.
But if Ings can remain fit throughout the season, there is no reason why Southampton don’t have grander plans for this season other than simply survival. He has made a scintillating start to this season, it’s just a case of whether he can keep going.
Southampton face a tough task this year, but with Ings spearheading the attack, they’ll have nothing to worry about.