In Focus: Ings will improve with Danny leading the line for Hammers
West Ham are having a disastrous domestic campaign but the Europa Conference League may provide them with a welcome distraction.
The Hammers travel to Cypriot side AEK Larnaca tonight in the first leg of a last-16 tie they will expect to progress from with ease.
Considered among the leading contenders for glory in the competition, a tilt at a European title and Premier League survival may be enough to see under-fire David Moyes keep his job.
On the other hand, a shock defeat this evening could easily mark the end of the Scot’s tenure.
With Moyes hoping Danny Ings can have an impact off the bench, we take a look at how the experienced marksman may solve recent goalscoring woes.
Having finished sixth and seventh in the last two Premier League seasons, along with reaching a Europa League semi-final, this campaign has been a brutal bump back down to earth for Hammers fans.
Moyes’ men have won just six league games out of a possible 25, leaving them only a point above the bottom three with 13 matches remaining.
Their problems have been widespread, but arguably the most notable difference this term has been an inability to find the back of the net.
At this time last season, West Ham had scored 44 top-flight goals. Fast forward 12 months and their tally sits at a meagre 23.
Last term, both Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio bagged double-figure hauls in the Premier League but they currently have just seven strikes between them.
Searching for solutions
Moyes seemingly knew that his forward line would require a boost, with Gianluca Scamacca arriving last summer from Serie A outfit Sassuolo for an initial £30.5million fee.
The towering Italian international, 24, initially caught the eye with some impressive performances, netting in Europa Conference League victories over Silkeborg and Anderlecht before Christmas.
His three goals in 16 Premier League outings hint at a player who was adjusting to the demands of English football before injury struck.
Scamacca was sidelined since mid-January with a knee issue, only returning in the recent FA Cup defeat at Manchester United — paving the way for another new signing to star.
Ings, who arrived from Aston Villa in a £12m January switch, has featured in West Ham’s last six Premier League games and scored twice on his first start against Nottingham Forest.
Ings has proven himself to be a reliable scorer of goals for many years now, even if injuries have blighted his career.
The former Liverpool striker, 30, bagged 14 times for Villa across last season and the first half of this campaign, only leaving the West Midlands due to his decreasing minutes under Unai Emery.
His two strikes against Forest were the type of finishes the Winchester-born forward has become synonymous with — applying the decisive touches to low, driven crosses from well inside the six-yard box.
Such goals may not feature on end-of-season highlight reels, but they are exactly what Moyes needs to ensure his side do not face the grim prospect of relegation this season.
Speaking prior to last weekend’s loss at Brighton, Moyes said: "We’ve got two league games and two big European nights where he’s available to play for us, which is really important for us as well. Then, we have a break.
"I hope Danny is ready to play in them all. It might be that he doesn’t play every minute but we’re hoping that he’s fit and available for all of them."
Making the difference
Clearly, Moyes sees Ings as a key component when it comes to turning round fortunes in East London — and with good reason.
With 70 Premier League goals under his belt, the three-cap England international would surely be in the division’s illustrious 100 club already if his fitness woes had not been so cruel.
His 22-goal season for Southampton in 2019-20 was a prime example of what he can achieve at his best and Ings is desperate to hit those heights again in the capital.
After scoring his brace against Forest last month, Ings made headlines when telling reporters in his post-match interview: "I'll be honest, I am disappointed not to get more goals today but that's football."
If unleashed against the relative minnows in Cyprus tonight, the assassin will be eyeing up another prolific evening.