Danny Ings is entering his third season at Anfield since joining from Burnley in the summer of 2015, yet he would be forgiven for thinking his Liverpool career is only just beginning.
Ligament and knee injuries have effectively robbed Ings of his first two years with Liverpool, making just eleven appearances. What was especially cruel for Ings was that the first long-term injury occurred in Jürgen Klopp’s first training session, after Ings had been brought to the club under the previous Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers.
The 24-year-old impressed early on, scoring three times, including in the Merseyside Derby against Everton – Rodgers’ final game. However, there is no doubt that Klopp also values Ings highly, reportedly turning down a £20m bid and several loan offers last summer for the England international.
Ings perfectly suits Klopp’s high-energy playing style with his tenacity and relentlessness and showed his eye for goal in his very brief spell in the Liverpool team at the start of the 2015/16 season. Ings also netted eleven times in a relegated Burnley side in the season prior to his move to Anfield.
Klopp has supposedly been hugely impressed with Ings’ work-rate and attitude in both of his long injury spells, and hopefully the striker can avoid serious injury and kick-start his Liverpool career fully in the following campaign.
Should he stay or should he go?
However, Ings faces a great deal of competition for a place in the 2017/18 Liverpool side. The Reds may be struggling with certain transfer targets at the moment, but one player that has signed is Roma’s Mohamed Salah, another attacker to add to Liverpool’s wealth of options further forward.
Salah and Sadio Mané can play upfront, but will in all likelihood play either side of one striker, even if Klopp is still unsure over formations and tactics for the season ahead.
Nevertheless, in just one position, Ings will have to contend with Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi, another new signing in talented youngster Dominic Solanke, signed from Chelsea, and finally Liverpool’s main striker and new No.9, Roberto Firmino. That is a long queue to jump ahead of, especially when you have barely played any top-level football in the last two years.
One of Sturridge or Origi could depart to seek automatic first-team football, but such a departure is far from certain, so at best Ings will be Liverpool’s third choice striker; at worst their fifth.
Ings’ current predicament for a starting place at Liverpool has raised the question about whether the forward should depart this summer, either on loan or even permanently. The latter would appear both extremely harsh and financially questionable – no team will offer £20m this summer for Ings, whose fierce work in order to return to Liverpool’s first-team set-up would evaporate if he was sold.
Loaning Ings to another Premier League club is another matter. Such a move would provide Ings with regular first-team football in his comeback year, where he could prove his fitness and quality to his parent club and boost his chances of becoming first choice at Liverpool in a year’s time.
A temporary move back to Burnley could appeal to Ings, who are still managed by Sean Dyche and firmly settled in the Premier League, but in need of more goals.
Liverpool themselves might be hesitant about sending another player to Turf Moor following Jon Flanagan’s disappointing loan spell there last season. Flanagan arrived at Burnley following his own long-term injury problems but received little game-time, and Klopp would want assurances of regular football from any party interested in Ings.
Staying put the best bet
However, currently Ings himself appears content to work his way back into Klopp’s thoughts on the training ground ahead of his return from injury. Even if he begins the season as a squad player and does not receive the same amount of football at Anfield as he would if he left on loan for a season, Ings will not want to give up his Liverpool dream.
A loan spell can be beneficial, but it can also act as the first step towards a permanent departure. Ings may fear the latter given the number of forwards in front of him.
Instead, he may feel his best chance of impressing Klopp and forcing his way into his manager’s reckoning will be by impressing up close, rather than at another club. Yet if any chance comes his way in a Liverpool shirt, Ings will have to take it, otherwise he may not receive another.
However, after all the pain and suffering he has had to endure for the majority of his time at Anfield, Ings deserves the choice to stay and fight at Anfield. If he believes that offers him the best chance of fulfilling his ambitions at Liverpool, then he should be granted his first full season at the club, assuming injury does not strike again – as a third season-killer would surely be fatal to Ings’ Liverpool career.
As John Arne Riise’s recent tweet on Ings symbolised, all Liverpool fans are completely behind Ings, regardless about the debate on what is best for his future, and want him to overcome his injury hell and become a success at Anfield.
Certainly, if Ings can return to the level Liverpool briefly saw when he first arrived, then he will have a valuable role to play at the club in the upcoming, fixture-loaded season – even if he is not first choice.