Tactics writer Sam Tighe takes a closer look at Danny Ings's impressive debut for Southampton...
Deadline-day signing Danny Ings made his highly-anticipated debut on Saturday, against Burnley, stepping off the bench in the 56th minute, and, as he did so, the game changed.
He was a catalyst for positivity, for renewed attacking vigour, giving Southampton’s final-third play an added dimension the visitors struggled to cope with.
It was no less than anybody expected.
sam tighehis predatory instincts have never been in doubt, and those should serve southampton well this season.
Ings may not have seen the pitch as much as he’d have liked during his time at Liverpool, with injuries undoubtedly playing a major part in that, but he’s clearly picked up a lot during his tenure there, standing a significantly improved footballer thanks to the tutelage of Brendan Rodgers and Jürgen Klopp.
His predatory instincts have never been in doubt, and those should serve Southampton well over the course of the season, but what did pleasantly surprise on Saturday was the other side to his game: playmaking and creating, dropping in between the lines to link play, and dribbling fearlessly at defenders.
Before his introduction early in the second half, Saints had been struggling to link Charlie Austin to the rest of the team, meaning sustained attacking periods had been hard to conjure.
Ings’s presence (along with a formation change) fixed that. The on-loan man adapted to the pace of the game instantly and took up a position just off Austin, utilising the areas a number ten would, and fed balls from Oriol Romeu and Mario Lemina into his strike partner’s path, linking Southampton from back to front.
He produced the pass of the match, lifting an exquisite delivery into the path of Austin from deep, which Matthew Lowton did well to deal with, and later extracted wows from the crowd as he dinked a ball up and over the onrushing Jack Cork and brought it down on the other side.
Ings’s ability to take the ball under pressure in a congested central area and dribble forward, forcing Burnley’s players to confront him, allowed the wide men to time dangerous runs either side of him. Mohamed Elyounoussi had a shot blocked following a slipped Ings pass, and the focus on him allowed the impressive Nathan Redmond some room to work in.
It’s arguable that all that was missing from his impressive stint was a goal – though no clear-cut chances fell his way, given he played the role of creator and was generally teeing up others.
Among the myriad positives Saints fans can glean from Saturday’s draw – Alex McCarthy’s game-saving brilliance, Redmond’s bright feet, Jannik Vestergaard’s commanding showing and Jack Stephens’s excellence from two positions firmly among them – it was Ings’s influential cameo that perhaps counts as the most exciting.