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Sunday 11 December 2016

Ronnie Whelan: Danny Ings offers us hope if Brendan Rodgers can be brave

Liverpool's Danny Ings celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game
Liverpool's Danny Ings celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game

BRENDAN Rodgers spoke about bravery after drawing with Norwich. Last week he spoke about his football identity. Right now he needs to be brave himself to save that identity by giving Danny Ings a run.

 

Like many of the things he says, I wonder why he needed to tell the world that he was happy to be tagged with a certain type of football but for the purposes of this piece, let’s run with it.

Presumably, what Rodgers is

talking about is the image created by a Liverpool team inspired by Luis

Suarez and anchored by Stevie Gerrard which blew teams away two seasons ago and had most neutrals – and even some rivals – on the edge of their seats.

Many have said that it was the goals Suarez scored that made all the difference and sure, they were the end product.

But Suarez was much more valuable to Liverpool than that. He led the defence. He hounded and harried for every minute he was on the pitch when Liverpool didn’t have the ball.

He was the best in the world at it and the players behind him had no choice but to respond to his work rate and enthusiasm. When he left, his goals went but so did the team’s heart.

I’m not putting Danny Ings on a level with Suarez but he has the same instincts, the same willingness to hunt down defenders and give his energy to the team.

It brought him a goal yesterday but it did much more than that. For the first time this season, I see options up front for Liverpool.

Priority

So let’s just wind back to that run at the tile a few seasons back or, more specifically, to the point where Rodgers knew that Suarez was gone. To protect the way his team worked, finding somebody to do that job must have been a priority.

So you have to wonder what was Fabio Borini about? Or Ricky Lambert. Or Mario Balotelli?

Dynamic is not a word you could use for any of them in terms of a high defensive line. But you can use it about Ings.

I wonder did Rodgers have Sturridge in mind for the role last season and am inclined to think he did.

It is giving him the benefit of the doubt and for me, placing responsibility for the fact that Liverpool made a hash of the transfer market a year ago and had no back-up when the club’s main striker was injured on the infamous transfer committee.

Many have speculated that Rodgers’ wishes guided this summer’s dealing completely and if that is so, Ings can play a big part in restoring his manager’s identity or to put it another way, restoring his credibility.

As I said, he’s not Suarez – but can Rodgers be brave and find a place for Ings, Benteke, Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho in the same team?

If the vision he has in his head was best illustrated by the team that simply blew teams away in a 10 minute burst and almost won the title, it is his only way forward.

Somehow, at the same time, he must find a way to bring stability to his defence. Hand on heart, I’m not sure any more what Rodgers is

thinking about his back line. The gains made by Ings yesterday were thrown away at a set-piece

I wonder why Dejan Lovren is not the player he was for Southampton and whether Rodgers believes that his best set-up is three at the back?

When he had Suarez, Sturridge and Gerrard, goals and raw attacking power were his defence but he needs a better balance now.

If I was being glib I’d say make Joe Gomez your main man and buy two new centre-backs but that option is not open.

I’d still think about Gomez though. I know I said last week that he’s only a kid and needs to develop but he looks like Liverpool’s most

accomplished defender a lot of the time. Maybe he’s like Anthony

Martial and simply born to it.

He’s a brave young lad. His manager needs to match him.

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