Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl insists Danny Ings should not feel under pressure to immediately rediscover his red-hot scoring streak going into the new Premier League season.
England striker Ings enjoyed the most prolific league campaign of his career last term, registering 22 times to finish a single strike behind golden boot winner Jamie Vardy.
Saints relied heavily on the 28-year-old’s contribution as no other player registered more than five top-flight goals.
Hasenhuttl is acutely aware of Ings’ importance to the club but has urged his star man to focus on performances, rather than become preoccupied with his goal tally.
“It’s important that he stays hard working for the team,” said Hasenhuttl.
“He shouldn’t go into the season and think, ‘I must have as quickly as possible a lot of goals and then I feel confident, otherwise I get pressure’. No, no – that’s not the key.
“He has to work hard for the team, he has to come into the situations where he was last season and then I’m sure he will get a lot of chances to score and when he has a chance then he normally he can finish.
“We will help him. The whole team is keen to step up and work hard for each other and I think when we have the best 11 on the pitch we are definitely in a good mode and can win games.”
Ings, who won his maiden England cap in October 2015, has returned to the international fold on the back of his potent performances.
He and recently-appointed Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse were both being included in Gareth Southgate’s latest national team squad.
The pair featured in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Iceland before being unused substitutes for the dour goalless draw in Denmark three days later.
While Hasenhuttl believes international recognition for his players reflects well on the south-coast club, he admits players being away with their countries was far from ideal when planning for Saturday’s season opener at Crystal Palace.
“It’s fantastic for them, for me as a coach it’s a sign that we did a good job,” said the Austrian, who has vented his displeasure at Stuart Armstrong returning injured from Scotland duty.
“Preparing for the new season, it’s not so fantastic.
“But the good thing is that they (Ings and Ward-Prowse) are coming back fit and they could work with the team so hopefully on the weekend they are immediately on a good performance.”
Midfielder Armstrong, who has a thigh problem, is the only Southampton player set to be unavailable at Selhurst Park.
Saints finished 11th last season after impressively recovering from a dismal start.
Hasenhuttl is aiming for a far better beginning to the 2020-21 campaign but dismissed talk of breaking into the top half of the table.
“This is not the way we are thinking,” he said.
“We know it’s a new season, a difficult one and yeah, hopefully we have a better start than last season.
“Every Premier League season is difficult but hopefully we can play as well as the end of last season and then hopefully get better results than last season in the beginning.”