Danny Ings' move to Liverpool adds another body to Brendan Rodgers' striking ranks after a miserable season in front of goal in 2014/15, and the Reds manager should expect a minimum of 10 goals from the 22-year-old in his first Premier League season for the side.
Desperately seeking goals, Rodgers will hope that tally can be replicated and improved upon in 2015/16, so 10 goals is a reasonable target.
However, this depends on many variables.
How Many Games Will Ings Play?
Being something of a poorly kept secret, the announcement of Ings' signing for Liverpool this summer was met with a muted reception.
After the failings of Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini last season, as well as the continued injury issues of Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool needed to address the striker situation with the signing of a proven, top-level centre-forward. Rightly, many Liverpool supporters are questioning whether Ings is that player.
Realistically, Ings should be signed as a third- or fourth-choice striking option—with Balotelli, Borini and Lambert possibly all departing this summer, the Englishman would vie with fellow new arrival Divock Origi for this mantle.
This is a feeling echoed by former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy, speaking to talkSPORT at the beginning of June:
Danny Ings is talented and he can score goals. It’s tough to judge him on this season because he’s been playing for Burnley. He’s a talent, but he is unproven at the top level.
He’s a great prospect and he’s English, so that’s good news for Liverpool. At this stage though, to get back into the top four, do they need a proven out and out striker? A bigger, more established, name? Or are they going to rely on Daniel Sturridge being fit? Because I’m not sure they can.
As Murphy attests, Liverpool need a forward of the highest calibre this summer; there is too much risk in relying on Ings, who has just one season of top-flight experience.
Provided another striker is signed, how many league games will Ings play?
It would be fair to suggest that if he is to be third choice, he would assume the role Lambert played in 2014/15—the lumbering former Southampton man made 25 Premier League appearances, just seven of which were starts, recorded by WhoScored.com.
A reasonable number of league starts for Ings next season would be between 10 and 15, with another 10 or 15 appearances from the substitutes' bench. Given this level of game time, Ings would be expected to better the output of Lambert, Balotelli and Borini, with 10 goals a fair target.
Of course, that depends on where he plays.
Where Will Ings Play?
Ings' role under Sean Dyche at Burnley in 2014/15 was an interesting one.
He largely operated as the Clarets' primary striking outlet, but he also showcased a tendency to drop deep and wide to collect the ball and continue moves; he pressed and harried well off the ball and utilised intelligent movement to target spaces between and behind opposition defences.
Though wearing the No. 10 shirt, it could be argued that Ings operated between the role of a traditional, playmaking No. 10 and that of a dynamic, goal-driven No. 9.
In the four league games he was used as an outright No. 10 under Dyche last season, Ings made an average of 1.1 key passes per 90 minutes. This is only slightly under the output Philippe Coutinho averaged (1.3) in his 10 games as a traditional No. 10 and equal to that of Adam Lallana in his three league appearances in this role. Ings is effective in this position, which showcases an intriguing ability.
But given the depth Liverpool have in their attacking-midfield ranks, comprised of Coutinho, Lallana, Lazar Markovic, Raheem Sterling and Jordon Ibe, it is unlikely Ings was signed to play in this role.
In all likelihood, Ings will play as a No. 9 for Liverpool—if Lambert departs, it could well be that he even assumes this shirt number.
At Burnley, Ings paired his creative and defensive duties with a fantastic goalscoring record for a player in a low-level side.
Can this be transplanted into Rodgers' first team?
Better Quality of Service, More Goals?
Burnley team-mate Michael Keane expressed his pride ahead of the striker's move to Liverpool and predicted a positive spell at Anfield, as reported by Neil Jones for the Mirror:
You just look at how many goals he scored for Burnley, with all due respect in a team that is not as good as Liverpool. If he plays regularly at Liverpool he’s going to get more chances, and I think he’ll do well. He just needs to get his first goal to get off the mark and he’ll start flying.
Keane's theory is one that many have put forward since Ings' move was announced: If he can score 11 Premier League goals in a relegation-battling side, he will do much better in a top-six side.
Put simply, this is because Liverpool create more chances for their strikers.
Across the 38 league games in 2014/15, Burnley created 317 chances, or an average of 8.3 chances created per game; Liverpool created a total of 435 chances, or 11.5 chances created per game on average—statistics recorded by Squawka. Furthermore, Burnley's average passing accuracy in the Premier League last season was a meagre 70 per cent, whereas Liverpool completed 83 per cent of their passes.
Despite their 2014/15 woes, Liverpool were more creative and precise in supplying chances for their strikers—a charge inspired by the exceptional Coutinho.
Interestingly, of the whole Liverpool squad, only Coutinho (103) had more shots on goal in 2014/15 than Ings' overall total (97). When performing as an out-and-out striker, Ings made 82 shots, resulting in all 11 of his league goals, averaging 7.5 shots per goal.
This compares well with Liverpool's top five goalscorers in the league during 2014/15:
|Total Shots||League Goals||Average Shots per Goal|
Considering every Liverpool player to operate as a striker in the Premier League last season—Sterling, Coutinho, Balotelli, Sturridge, Borini, Lambert and Steven Gerrard—Ings also shines:
|Shots as Striker||Goals as Striker||Average Shots per Goal as Striker|
Given Borini, Coutinho and Gerrard's results were all small sample sizes, Ings' average of 7.5 shots per goal shows that he could outperform the likes of regular centre-forward options Sterling and Balotelli when provided the quality of service on offer at Liverpool.
Obviously, the worry is that Ings will recoil at the magnitude of expectation on Merseyside, but Keane claims this won't be an issue for the 22-year-old. "There’s probably a few nerves there but they’ll go straight away when he joins them because he’s a quality player," he said.
If Ings is given the time, Keane believes, he will thrive.
Provided he is given the right amount of game time in the right position, Ings should be targeting at least 10 Premier League goals in his first season with Liverpool.