COTTAGERS LACKING KILLER INSTINCT
By Mark Willis
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
On their way to the Division One title Fulham blasted a staggering total of 90 strikes past their hapless opponents and failed to score in just seven games. But after two months of top-flight action and a third failure to net on the big stage coming at Villa Park yesterday, Tigana confessed to needing 'a killer in the box'.
Despite Mohammed Al Fayed digging deep into his silk-lined pockets to produce £11.5 million for the attacking services of Steve Marlet, the Cottagers have produced less than a goal a game on average.
Last season's top marksman Louis Saha looked lively at the start of the campaign, smashing a brace past Fabien Barthez on the opening day and followed up with a goal against Sunderland three days later. However, his midas touch has since deserted him and the former Newcastle frontrunner contrived to miss a spot kick against the Villans.
To his credit Saha has unleashed more shots than any of his colleagues, although he is currently the lest-accurate frontrunner at the club with just 29% of his drives landing between the posts. Barry Hayles looks the man most likely to breach opposition rearguards at present, having seen three-quarters of his efforts kept out, but then he has only pulled the trigger once every 46 minutes on average.
Louis Boa Morte has appeared in Fulham's last four outings and has made a claim for a regular first team slot with a goal and an assist, yet his biggest contribution appears to have been two bookings. The Portuguese hitman was the only one of the four forwards not to force Peter Schmeichel into a save in front of the Sky cameras, but then ruthlessness was lacking in all other efforts.
Only four other Premiership sides have mustered fewer shots on target than Fulham this season. Just 36% of the team's efforts have tested the 'keeper and only fellow Londoners Spurs have registered a poorer record than this.
Tigana has slammed his side for being 'too nice' and perhaps this refers as much to their finishing as to their ball-winning ability. In reality Fulham have won the third-highest number of tackles in the top flight, while they are the joint owners of the fifth-worst goals-to-shots ratio in the Premiership.
This is in stark contrast to last season and a quick remedy must be found if the Cottagers are to begin edging away from the danger zone.
Fortunately for the chairman's much-utilised bank account, Tigana feels that once his team regains their confidence a regular goalscorer will emerge from the current crop of wannabe assassins, and lowly Ipswich could be the first to feel their wrath next weekend.