Unlike the past two seasons, Liverpool will likely enter the 2016-17 season with three fit and firing, high quality forwards. Daniel Sturridge should be first choice with Divock Origi close behind him, but the Reds also have the talented Danny Ings. Last year in his debut season, Ings started brightly with three goals in seven appearances before tearing his ACL in Klopp’s first training session. It was a brutal course of events for the Englishman, but he has come back strong, participating extensively in the preseason thus far.
Ings fits nicely into Klopp’s gegenpressing system with his excellent work rate in the press. In attack, Ings has a high football IQ that opens up chances for him and his teammates that others cannot. He does not have the speed of Origi or the technical ability of Sturridge, but Ings simply finds ways to score goals. While some may chalk this up to luck and chance, Ings’ poacher mentality is a skill and it is what makes him an effective striker. Ings brings a great mentality and excellent work ethic to the pitch that has seen him endear himself to Klopp in the short time the two have worked together.
Normally, a player in Ings’ position would not have any concerns of playing time. However, Klopp rarely employs systems with multiple strikers and Liverpool will only be competing domestically in 2016-17. These two factors greatly reduce the amount of playing time to be spread around Liverpool’s strikers. As of now, Ings will likely only contribute in cup matches and as a late substitute when the Reds need a goal.
Although Sturridge has had incessant injury problems throughout his time at Anfield, his fitness appears to have turned a corner in the past eight months under Klopp. Plus, for the first time in at least two seasons, Sturridge has been granted almost a full preseason. He will be entering the new campaign with full fitness (barring a last second injury) and when healthy, he has proven to be one of the Premier League’s best strikers.
Sturridge’s impeccable track record is undeniable, but Origi’s excellent showings since Klopp took over as manager have him right behind the Englishman. His hold up play has been excellent since he added a significant amount of upper body strength while injured last season, and his pace to stretch the defense is undeniable. At 21 years old, the Belgian has a tremendous future on Merseyside, not to mention a legitimate chance to become Liverpool’s first choice striker as early as this season.
So where does all of this leave Ings? Typically, the Reds would have European commitments that open up many more opportunities for second and third choice players. This season however, the Reds will not be competing in Europe, as everyone now knows, thus limiting the chances Ings will receive. The Englishman’s work ethic and skill-set fit perfectly with what Klopp asks of his strikers, but he is clearly behind Origi and Sturridge in the pecking order. With limited opportunities on the pitch, Ings will need to make the most of his chances or risk falling out of contention for a place.
At 24 years old, as a player that was just beginning to grow into the striker he could become, a lack of playing time could stall his promising development. It will certainly be difficult to overtake Origi and Sturridge for playing time in the league, but Ings needs to show what he can bring through his cameos off the bench and in cup competitions. Both Origi and Sturridge are still young at 21 and 26, so Ings will not be getting anywhere closer to the starting eleven in the foreseeable future if he cannot take his chances.
In 2017-18 the Reds will likely be back in Europe, and Ings needs to at least hold his place behind Origi and Sturridge or else his time at Anfield may be up next summer. Klopp has been ruthless in moving on players that are not needed, and even though Ings appears to have endeared himself to the German, a year of no development could change things very quickly.
Ings needs to prevent himself from becoming a forgotten man on Merseyside and the only way he can do this will be to take full advantage of the limited chances he receives this season. It is never easy having to make an impact in a match with a short 20 or 30 minute appearance, but this is where Ings needs to make his mark in 2016-17. The Englishman has gone through a lot since arriving at Anfield last summer, but his battle is not yet over. In fact, it may be just beginning.