It’s cliché but Danny Ings is that typical “new signing” a manager usually refers to when asked about a player returning to the first team picture after a long spell on the sideline for the reds.
The former Burnley man suffered a season ending injury when he ruptured knee ligaments mere days after Jürgen Klopp walked through the door; still fresh from scoring in his first derby against Everton at Goodison Park in a 1-1 draw which had resulted in the sacking of Brendan Rodgers.
Since then it has been a very long road to recovery but he marked his proper return to action last Friday with a good second half display against Tranmere which was capped off with a well taken strike to give Liverpool the 1-0 victory.
Things didn’t go as smoothly though on Wednesday as the Englishman struggled up against the Fleetwood defenders whilst others players shined. He was very much on the peripheral of the game and when given the chance to open the scoring; his penalty was easily stopped by the Fleetwood goalkeeper.
It should be expected though. Ings hadn’t played a game of football since October until Friday with the exception of a late cameo on the final day of last season against West Brom, so we shouldn’t expect him to be anywhere near match fitness. It isn’t just match fitness either because it is pre-season so general fitness is also being built up.
Klopp must use Ings effectively in pre-season to counteract this and try and get Ings as much game time as possible whilst he waits for Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi to ease themselves back into the new season. The more Ings plays, the more he will gain that fitness and sharpness that he had in his game before the injury occurred.
Will he get his chance this season?
In regards to this season however things don’t necessarily look so good for Ings in terms of playing time. Both Sturridge and Origi have had over half a season under Klopp’s tutelage and he knows a lot more about them than Ings in match situations.
Origi was excellent under Klopp and but for injuries would have been an even bigger factor especially in the closing stages of the season. The Belgian got the nod in the big games under Klopp and it is expected that Klopp will continue to use him as much as possible.
Daniel Sturridge, on the other hand, is world class. Look no further than his goal in the Europa League final against Sevilla. He can be frustrating to watch at times as he can look disinterested but his instinct in front of goal is second to none and he will be looking forward to hopefully completing his first full season without major injury concerns for a long time as well as being the main striker for the Reds.
It has been reported recently that Klopp is happy with the attacking resources that he has at his disposal even with the increasing likelihood of sales for both Christian Benteke and Mario Balotelli. That would leave Liverpool with three strikers and for the reasons listed above Origi and Sturridge are ahead of Ings in that pecking order.
Outgoing loan possibilities linked with Ings during this window appear laughable when you consider the start he did actually make to his Liverpool career. After initially settling for a place on the bench to begin the season, injuries to Benteke and Sturridge gave Ings an opportunity: one that he grasped with both hands. As results and performances dipped under Rodgers, Ings was one of the only players to come out of that spell with any credit to his name.
He is a willing worker with a never say die attitude and that helped massively adhere him to the Anfield faithful was there for all to see and his pace, movement and power makes him a player that Klopp should enjoy working with and appears to fit with the style of play.
His 3 goals in 7 games before the injury when Liverpool were worse than average, at best, shows that he is capable of scoring goals on a regular basis and with Liverpool being the second most prolific attack under Klopp in the league in 2016, Ings will be hoping to get in on the act and get back to scoring Premier League goals again.
Ings himself needs to impress in pre-season because with Klopp operating with just one man up front and both Sturridge and Origi already battling for that position the former Burnley man is going have to put the work in. Klopp also has options such as Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane who can play in that number 9 role as well so the fight is well and truly on.
No European football doesn't help Ings cause
Liverpool’s lack of European football is also not working in Ings favour and he may have to settle for performances in the domestic cup competitions providing Origi and Sturridge stay fit because right now it’s difficult to give a valid argument for Ings to be the main centre forward. However, Sturridge and Origi both missed significant time last season out of action through injury so if those problems reoccur then that may provide Ings with the opportunity to impress and stake his claim.
Ings began to show signs of frustration very early on last season when he didn’t appear in any of Liverpool’s first three games and instead was left to sit on the bench. He has that attitude of wanting to be out on that pitch every game for the whole 90 minutes. It’s that attitude which will help him push for a starting spot and give Klopp selection issues but he could be set for another season of frustration watching on from the bench.
Ings has worked hard to get back on the field. Now he needs to work even harder to stay on it.