Villa slipped into the bottom three at the weekend, as they were hammered 6-1 by Manchester City.
Dean Smith’s side are currently struggling for striking options, with Wesley ruled out for the season.
And Merson feels that the difference between a team like Villa and Southampton is Ings.
“If you’ve got a centre forward who is going to get you 15 goals, I’d be very shocked if you were going to get relegated,” Merson said.
“If he was playing for Aston Villa, they wouldn’t be third bottom.”
Southampton paid £20 million to sign Ings from Liverpool on a permanent move in the summer (BBC Sport), and he has gone on to be a brilliant addition.
Ings has scored 14 goals in the Premier League so far this term, which has propelled the Saints into 12th place in the table.
Villa are looking to sign a striker in the January transfer window, and it will be vital that they make the right choice over who to buy.
Smith’s men clearly need an injection of quality if they are to avoid the drop and an immediate return back to the Championship.
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