Watt View - Late scramble to replace Ings not ideal but solid options available
Monday, 9th Aug 2021 07:45 by Matt Watts
Matt Watt returns to give us his first Watt View of the 2021/22 season and here he tackles the question that all Saints fans are asking, Who will Ralph Hasenhuttl get to replace Danny Ings ?
As pre-season drew to a close with the 1-3 defeat at home to Athletic Bilbao, the question on everyone’s mind was when and who will Southampton FC bring in to replace Danny Ings up top.
Rumours have been circulating for many months about possible striking options for Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl but, as things stand and less than a week away from the Premier League opener against Everton, none have been forthcoming.
The same can be said for Ings and his move. It was common knowledge in the footballing world that the striker had attracted much interest given his record of 46 goals in 100 appearances and a number of potential suitors had been touted in recent weeks and months.
Eventually the talk reached its conclusion with him moving - unexpectedly - to Aston Villa for around £30 million just a week and a half before the season begins away at Goodison Park.
This news broke just minutes before Saints’ 1-0 home win over another Spanish outfit, Levante, which was not welcome timing for those fans who had made the trip to St Mary’s to take in a game which also saw a number of first team players missing.
In his post-match interview, Hasenhuttl said: “I know that we have a few others in our team who must step up now, but it is clear that we have this money, and we need this money for maybe bringing two more players into this squad that we need.”
That was followed after Saturday’s defeat when he reiterated the point, saying: “I think we know that we have lost a very important striker in Danny Ings and to replace him, sure, we know that we have to do something. We definitely need someone.”
There is absolutely no question more business needs to be done.
Ings finished top scorer last season with 13 goals in 33 games, four more than both James Ward-Prowse and Che Adams who played 44 and 42 games respectively, while Theo Walcott managed three in 23 games and Nathan Tella one in 22 games.
From a business and football perspective, it seems to make little sense to be forced to act just days before the start of a season where the aim of any club is to secure as high a placed finish as they possibly can - and this is all with the spectre of centre back Jannik Vestergaard’s possible departure still looming.
The season ended with a comprehensive 3-0 defeat away at West Ham United way back on 23 May and that has given from then until now to invest and embed players into the squad to attempt to make much-needed progress following the club’s poor showing in the second half of last season.
For a club valued by owner Gao Jisheng at £250 million and the man himself with a fortune estimated to be around £3.1 billion - placing him mid-table in the list of the Premier League’s richest owners - the strategy of frantically looking for a low-cost replacement for Ings so late in the day seems out of keeping with an objectives-focused business, let alone a sports team hoping to push for improvement.
Nevertheless, just actually sourcing a new striking option at this stage will be welcome news to everyone involved with the club, particularly the fans who have so often been left frustrated by Saints’ dealings in the transfer market.
Many will be familiar with the names linked with a move, namely Blackburn’s 29-goal hitman Adam Armstrong who has been likened in style to Ings. Others in the mix include RB Leipzig’s Alexander Sorloth and Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham.
Word emerged at the weekend that Saints had renewed their interest in Celtic’s Odsonne Edouard having been mentioned as an option previously this year when the 23-year-old Frenchman looked set to move to former Hoops boss Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City.
Their focus switched, however, and attention on the former Paris Saint-Germain forward quelled until recent moves were made by Brighton to take Edouard to the Amex for around £18 million.
He has been with Celtic since 2017 after joining on a season-long loan from PSG before completing a £9m switch the following year and has scored an impressive 83 goals and recorded 39 assists.
Both Armstrong and Edouard fit the price range of around £20 million to £25 million which Saints could be expected to meet, though the club may well look to keep its cash outlay limited to around the £15 million mark and incorporate Michael Obafemi, who didn’t register a goal last term, as a makeweight.
Norwegian international Sorloth could be slightly more attractive price-wise to Saints, having moved from Crystal Palace to Leipzig for around £18 million but only managed five goals in 29 games last term - and zero in 16 league games for the Eagles.
Although it sounds bleak, during a loan from Palace to Trabzonspor in Turkey during the 2019-20 season he scored 24 goals and delivered nine assists in 34 Super Lig matches.
Added to his international record of 11 goals in 32 games it shows there is something in the man with the 6ft 4in frame. But given his lack of goals at both his previous and current substantive clubs, any interested parties would certainly expect to pay less than his most recent £18 million price tag - probably a middle ground between that fee and the £8 million Palace paid for his services.
The thought of Saints securing Abraham from Chelsea is appealing but highly unlikely given the Blues keenness to avoid a loan deal in the hope of securing around £34 million - a valuation well above the fees the club could afford or would even consider venturing near and Saints focused on a loan only.
At the cheaper end of the scale there is the lesser-known Greek international Giorgos Giakoumakis who has made waves at VVV-Venlo, the Dutch side from which Saints signed defender Maya Yoshida back in 2012.
Remarkably, Giakoumakis won the Eredivisie golden boot with a whopping 26 goals in 30 games - seven goals ahead of the runner-up - in a team that was relegated in 17th place out of 18.
He is expected to be available for around £9 million or less, with some reports even suggesting his current side would accept in the region of £5 million given their demotion.
However, former Newcastle starlet Armstrong, at 24 and having represented England at level from under-16s through to under-21s, would be the number one choice for both the club and its fans given he is within cost range, that both clubs have been in advanced talks for some time, he is a proven goal scorer at a difficult level of football in the Championship and he has a long career ahead of him.
However, if he turns out to be out of reach then any of the other options in the mix would certainly all be welcome additions to a St Mary’s frontline which is currently missing a figurehead - and Giakoumakis would be a relatively low-risk choice given his cheap price tag and goal scoring exploits of last season.
Photo: Action Images
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