There’s a lot to like about how Liverpool have begun this off-season and, in James Milner and Danny Ings, they’ve already added a depth that wasn’t in place last season.
Few are contesting that Milner is a good signing - rightly - but there’s a clear division over Ings, the contention being that he doesn’t really improve the side and that his addition represents something which is different but ultimately the same.
It’s way too early to speculate as to how much playing time Ings will be given at Anfield but, if he is afforded a proper chance, he’ll likely surprise some of his detractors. As a complete entity, he may not - currently - be a dramatic improvement on Fabio Borini or Rickie Lambert, but he’s stylistically more relevant than either of them.
A mobile forward who has proven himself to be both a capable finisher and good in the air, Ings is better equipped to play for Brendan Rodgers than any of the players he’ll be competing with. On the basis that Daniel Sturridge, if fit, will remain the first-choice forward, Ings will provide Rodgers with a neat secondary option. The twenty-two year-old doesn’t possess Sturridge’s high-octane value, but he’s someone who can finish, who can press in advanced areas and who will move cleverly into the final-third space that Liverpool’s attacking patterns create.
Amongst other deficiencies, that was a significant problem last year. Without Sturridge, Liverpool were often static and predictable in their opponents’ half and they were frequently easy to defend against. Rickie Lambert isn’t the sort of forward capable of curing that kind of issue, Mario Balotelli certainly isn’t and, as time goes on, Fabio Borini looks more like a wide-based auxiliary forward than a player who is comfortable through the middle.
Ings will not prove to be the difference between Liverpool finishing sixth and first, but he raises the average level of the talent-pool at the forward position and those kind of signings are always - always - worthwhile.
Similarly, while a secondary concern for most fans, this is an astute move from an economic standpoint. Once the tribunal has ruled on the compensation, this transfer will likely be worth somewhere around the £6m-£8m mark - meaning that Liverpool will have snagged a twenty-two year-old homegrown forward for a bargain price.
And what do we know about English players in this market? And what do we know about goal-scorers?
They have inflated value.
If Ings is in any way successful at Anfield, Liverpool will be in a position to make a profit from him. In fact, even if he’s not, it’s highly-unlikely that the club would lose money on this transfer.
This isn’t a Balotelli-style risk or a Lambert situation, in which fees paid and wages spent are unrecoverable, Ings’ move - at absolute worst - will prove to be a smart investment.
Transfers have to be evaluated in different ways and not just with a simple, binary assessment of ‘bust’ or ‘brilliant’. Not every new player can have a team-altering value and, as such, it’s okay to applaud those who encourage simple, marginal gains.
Ings is one those. Maybe his arrival isn’t cause for street-parties, but there’s absolutely nothing to dislike about this move.