We’ve all heard of second season syndrome when it comes to clubs, but does it also apply to players?
It would be amiss to describe Danny Ings’ 2019/20 campaign as a ‘breakthrough season’, given the fact his performances have previously earned him a move to Liverpool as well as receiving international recognition.
However, considering the Southampton forward had only once notched double figures in the Premier League prior to last season, it certainly represented something of a watershed moment.
No player in England's top flight contributed a higher proportion of their club’s final goal tally than Ings, with his 22 strikes equating to 43% of Southampton’s final figure.
However, the Saints frontman was marked out of the game in their opening day defeat at Crystal Palace, a game which acted as a warning shot for boss Ralph Hasenhüttl – Southampton can’t rely on Ings’ firepower this season as heavily as they did last.
His 22-goal haul in the 2019/20 Premier League campaign was clearly at the forefront of Palace boss Roy Hodgson’s mind when planning for the Saints' visit to Selhurst Park. The forward wasn’t afforded any time or space by centre-back pairing Scott Dann and Cheikhou Kouyaté, spending large periods of the game shackled by both defenders.
Prior to a 95th minute chance which was comfortably beaten away by Vicente Guaita, the former Burnley man’s only real sightings of the Palace goal were hardly gilt-edged chances, with a cheeky backward header from an acute angle and a swivel and shot which was quickly charged down his only real efforts.
As the game drew on Ings found himself becoming increasingly frustrated by the close attention he was being paid, with the frontman drifting out into the wide areas in a desperate bid to impact proceedings – an area of the pitch Hasenhüttl won’t want to see his prolific marksman straying into.
The one plus point of the former Burnley man drawing the Palace defenders towards him was the space it afforded his teammates.
Southampton’s biggest chance of the game fell to Ché Adams, however, as the ball ricocheted towards him in the box, the 24-year fired his close-range effort at Guaita, giving the Spaniard chance to beat the ball away. Had the ball fallen to his strike partner you’d have put your mortgage on the visitors securing a point.
Should other Premier League teams look to follow Palace’s lead in stifling Ings, Hasenhüttl will be relying on his three other frontmen - Shane Long, Michael Obafemi and Adams - to fire the club to safety. However, with just 55 goals between them in 15 seasons in England’s top flight, the aforementioned trio are hardly lethal marksmen.
Admittedly Hodgson’s ability to set up a rigid system and stifle the opposition’s attacking threat is as good as any, however, if Saints’ defeat at Palace is a preview of the upcoming season, Southampton need to be very wary of leaning so heavily on Ings’ ability to grab crucial goals, and forward reinforcements may be necessary.