Bleacher Report’s Sam Tighe explains why in-form striker Danny Ings is such a perfect fit for Ralph Hasenhüttl’s Southampton…
Some players can go their whole career without finding a manager who “gets” them; one whose style and personality mimic theirs, enabling sparks to fly and performance levels to rocket.
Even the very, very best need that symbiotic relationship to help them lift their game to an all-conquering mode.
Lionel Messi, as fantastic as he is, needed Pep Guardiola to unlock that next level in him. Roberto Firmino is sensational, but partly because Jürgen Klopp knows exactly what to do to make him tick. Cristiano Ronaldo fed off Zinedine Zidane’s aura to somehow improve further.
A player and manager reading from the same hymn sheet can be deadly, no matter the level. And at St Mary’s right now, there’s another example of a player-manager combination fuelling success in the form of Danny Ings and Ralph Hasenhüttl.
His spot in the XI has not always been guaranteed this season, starting four of the seven Premier League matches and having to make do with a cameo from the bench in the other three.
Hasenhüttl’s flexibility in changing systems has been a factor in that, but so too has the signing of Ché Adams – a move which has laid down the gauntlet to Ings, pushing him to strive and improve.
Competition for places is, as we’re so often told, a healthy thing to have; Ings’s campaign so far is active proof that the old adage is true.
After getting just 13 minutes against AFC Bournemouth, Ings channelled his energies into destroying south coast rivals Portsmouth, netting two goals and creating Cédric’s third.
It was arguably his best performance in a Saints shirt, and the two main qualities that defined it were his attacking contributions and aggression off the ball.
This is Ings in a nutshell; he’ll work and work and work some more, all while linking play, creating chances and finishing some off for himself.
In Hasenhüttl he has a manager who adores and abides by those qualities, builds his system around them, but is also still capable of challenging Ings to up his game.
The rich vein of form continued into the Tottenham match, and again Ings’s goal was about as Danny Ings as it gets.
Relentless closing down of Hugo Lloris forced a muffed Cruyff turn, a clean tackle and tapped finish from a yard following swiftly after.
Adams scored an eerily similar goal in pre-season against Feyenoord, where he leapt after a dawdling Sven van Beek, dispossessing and shooting with the same motion to beat the goalkeeper.
It’s the Hasenhüttl way and you need to be a certain type of forward to embrace and enjoy it. Ings is. Adams is too.
That they can play together or compete for a spot has lifted Ings’s level, then Hasenhüttl has lifted it again.
It’s a combination not quite on the Messi-Pep scale, or the Ronaldo-Zidane scale, but it’s still an important illustration of how perfect matches exist in football – and how they can lead to the sort of performances Ings is putting in now.