After Liverpool's deal for Christian Benteke officially goes through, the club will have seven recognized strikers in the senior squad. Benteke joins Daniel Sturridge, Danny Ings, Divock Origi, Rickie Lambert, Fabio Borini, and Mario Balotelli to give Brendan Rodgers plenty of options, and while the latter trio are all expected to move on in the coming weeks, the fourth-year manager will still have a large stable from which to choose match-to-match.
That was the thought last season as well, of course, when Lambert, Borini, and Balotelli were available for selection after Sturridge went down long-term with injury. All showed glimpses of talent and promise, but nobody was able to consistently produce up top, leading Rodgers to place Raheem Sterling in the striker's role during the club's most successful run of the season.
Rodgers' reasoning appeared to be that none of the three backups were a good fit for one reason or another, and as he looks to move them on, he welcomes in another trio for whom he has high hopes. The fit is again questionable, though, especially with Benteke, while both Origi and Ings will need time to adapt after coming in from clubs who, like Liverpool, had their fair share of struggles in the final third last season.
The younger duo have been promising in the first two matches of the preseason, however, with Ings in particular looking very dangerous. He's yet to open his Liverpool account, but his touch, technique, and quality in and around the opposition penalty area has been heartening, and it seems only a matter of time before he gets on the scoresheet.
Perhaps it's not surprising that he's looked so solid in the opening weeks, as he's made all the right noises since arriving and has remained focused on working to better himself as a player and teammate upon arriving. He continued to strike the right chords after the 2-1 win over Brisbane Roar, noting that while Liverpool will always be looking to improve the squad, he's going to do his best to compete for minutes regardless of who's around:
"At a club like this it is expected to sign top players. It can only lift you as a player because it is all competition to get that starting place. I moved here knowing that there was going to be big signings here on top of the quality that is already here. For me it is all about developing and being the best I can be every day and try to compete against those players. It is only good additions for me to train and play alongside. It is all down to the staff and manager who picks the side. All you can do is improve every day and do the best you can day in day out."
As was the case last year, there should be chances early in the absence of Sturridge. Benteke is the money man, but if Ings' development continues throughout the preseason, it wouldn't be too surprising to see him starting alongside the Belgian in the season opener or, at minimum, get significant minutes off the bench. Rodgers has looked to two different systems through Liverpool's first two preseason matches, and Ings should fit into either--in the 4-3-3 he's been comfortable centrally or drifting wide, and as part of a duo up top in the 4-4-2 he's capable of combining with a partner to provide pressing and movement without the ball and smart interplay and technical quality with it.
It remains to be seen whether or not the hard work pays off when it truly matters, but for now, it's hard not to hope things come good for Danny Ings. The same goes for the rest of Liverpool's new strikers, especially considering the struggles of last season.