Aston Villa have been thriving ever since Steven Gerrard was appointed as Dean Smith’s replacement as manager, following a bad start to the season which left them 16th after losing five consecutive games in the Premier League during the autumn.
Despite the U-turn that the Liverpool legend has inspired so far at Villa, not every player has benefited from his presence at the club, with Danny Ings failing to make an impact ever since he was signed last summer.
It is clear that the 29-year-old and fellow striker Ollie Watkins can’t find the connection when they play together, with Ings scoring three of his four Premier League goals this season when his strike partner was not on the pitch.
At the end of December, it was revealed that the former Southampton forward had the lowest non-penalty xG per 90 (0.15) and the lowest xA per 90 (0.02) of any Premier League forward so far this season, and has since scored just one goal.
Ings’ presence is clearly affecting Watkins’ output too, as the latter has been relocated out wide to accommodate the ex-Liverpool striker, Nonetheless, he has scored more than Ings, with five goals and one assist in 19 appearances so far this season.
Former Villa striker Gabby Agbonlahor weighed in on the lack of connection between the two strikers. Speaking to Football Insider, he said: “For me, when I watch Watkins play as a central striker making runs into the channels, that’s where I want to see him, that’s what gets the best out of him.
“Every time I’ve watched Ings and Watkins play together it hasn’t worked, something isn’t working with their connection.”
Now that Gerrard has signed Philippe Coutinho, it could be the right time to axe the £19.8m-rated Ings from the team. That would Watkins to revert to his preferred position up top, with Emi Buendia and Coutinho out wide, a setup which was clearly more effective in Villa’s first win in three games against Everton recently.
It will be interesting to see how the Villa manager tackles the challenge of setting up his forward line, especially when Leon Bailey returns from injury. Unfortunately for Ings, he simply hasn’t done enough since the start of the season to merit being a regular in the starting XI, so it may be time for Gerrard to wield the axe on him.
In other news: Fabrizio Romano drops behind-the-scenes Villa claim