The debate over who should be crowned Premier League player of the season for 2019/20 revolves around two midfielders who just won't be separated.
Kevin De Bruyne, on paper, should win hands down. 20 assists and 13 goals despite being lumbered with a sub-par Man City team who spluttered and stumbled behind Liverpool in the title race; game over, right?
Well, not quite.
The people's choice seems to be Reds captain and FWA Player of the Year Jordan Henderson, whose leadership and tenacity, many argue, was the single most influential factor in Liverpool winning the title at a canter.
So the debate rolls on to tedium; stats vs influence, numbers vs intangibles, De Bruyne vs Henderson.
If only there was a player who had both sides of the debate working in their favour, and could then claim the right to give both Liverpool's leader and City's creator a run for their money.
Oh wait, here he is.
Southampton's turnaround in the second half of the season, reviving themselves after a soul-destroying 9-1 defeat to Leicester, was the stuff of fairytales. But whichever way you spin it, it simply would not have been possible without their talisman leading from the front.
The statistical argument is easy to make. His 22 goals accounted for 43% of his team's league total, the highest percentage boasted by any player in the Premier League. His goals were also worth a mammoth 27 of his team's 52 points - the highest total and percentage (52%) in the division.
He scored more than any player finishing outside of the top half has managed in a decade, and did so in a team whose goal tally (51) fell just short of the league average (52). He wasn't even their regular penalty taker.
He had a freakishly good season, and deserves to be in the conversation on pure numbers alone. But that's only half the case.
To understand the second half, you have to first contextualise it. This is a guy who, ten years ago, was playing in the eighth tier with Dorchester Town, and whose career as a professional looked on the ropes as recently as two years ago owing to a succession of serious injuries.
Eddie Howe - responsible for taking Ings from Bournemouth to Burnley in 2011 - outlines how hard he has had to fight to become one of England's best strikers, and the elite mentality that has helped him through the rough patches along the way.
“Danny’s a great example of what you can achieve even in difficult circumstances because his background and everything he went through to make it as a footballer wasn’t a smooth journey at all," Howe said, speaking to The Leader.“He had a lot of challenges along the way. He needed great mental strength to overcome those hurdles and the thing that struck me with him was just his desire and motivation levels were always so high. The thing I remember about Danny, it wasn’t just making it as a footballer, he wanted to get to the top.
“He wanted to be the very best and I’m sure he’s kept that right throughout his career and he’s reaped the benefits of that mindset. Of course you need the talent to back it up but he has that in abundance.”
When Ralph Hasenhuttl needed someone in his squad to step up and lead by example following that defeat to Leicester, then? Ings was ready and waiting.
His determination and desire to succeed is relentless, having been praised by Hasenhuttl on multiple occasions this season, and has obviously rubbed off on a squad who looked dead and buried in October. Ings was released by Southampton as a 16-year-old - now he'd worked his way back, he wasn't about to let them sink out of the Premier League.
He went about setting the standards, leading from the front, and playing an absolutely integral role in dragging his team kicking and screaming into mid-table. They won 13 of their final 27 matches, having won two of 10 previously.
So, stats and creativity? De Bruyne is probably out in front.
Leadership and influence? Maybe Henderson has that tied down.
The crime of not playing for Liverpool or Manchester City, however, should not disqualify Ings from the conversation. He brought both ends of the spectrum together in a perfect storm that saved Southampton from certain doom, and deserves the individual recognition his season merits.
Source : 90min