LONDON (Reuters) - Southampton’s very own “Le God” has warned the current crop of players they need to find inspiration in front of goal if they are to flourish while leading goal scorer Charlie Austin recovers from injury.
Matt Le Tissier, whose goals for the south coast club still grace any showreel of greatest strikes, is recommending a bit of visualisation therapy to solve the problem.
“Just get used to seeing the ball hit the back of the net,” he told Reuters.
The Saints have scored only 14 goals this season - 20 fewer than league leaders Chelsea. Their tally is level with bottom side Sunderland and second-bottom Hull. Only 17th-placed Middlesbrough, with 13, have scored fewer.
It is a statistic that is plainly hurting the ambitions of Claude Puel’s side. That lack of firepower was a major contributor to them missing out on the Europa League knockout stages, and prevented them beating 10-man Stoke in midweek.
Austin, who has scored nine goals in all competitions this season, including six in the Premier League, is out for up to four months following shoulder surgery, and Le Tissier hopes the men in red and white do not lose their confidence.
The 48-year-old spent his entire career at the Saints. He became the first midfielder to score 100 goals in the Premier League, including many spectacular strikes.
“It does have an impact when your main threat in front of goal is not there,” Le Tisser said.
“I think it leads to a little lack in belief and lack of confidence in the side. It shouldn’t do really but they’re all human and unfortunately it does have an effect on players.”
Le Tissier had a simple remedy.
“I tended to do more finishing in training, a lot of simple drills and just get used to seeing the ball hit the back of the net,” he said.
”I would force myself to watch the ball in the back of the net and sometimes that’s doing drills when there isn’t even a goalkeeper in the goal. You get yourself into the habit of seeing that and visualising that ball smashing the back of the net. “Sometimes it just takes a little chance to go your way or a bit of a deflection and you start scoring freely again, and that’s what we’re hoping for.” The former England international, who converted 47 of 48 penalties he took, thinks Puel may need to recruit a short term replacement next month.“Losing Charlie... is a huge blow... because the lack of firepower that they’ve got in the side is a bit of a concern,” said Le Tisser.
“There might only be two league games this season where we’ve scored more than one goal,” he added, referring to the 3-0 win at West Ham in September and a 3-1 victory over Burnley.
“If you’re looking for someone who is an out and out goal scorer, even as a short-term fix, I would quite like to see Jermain Defoe come in. Obviously, Sunderland wouldn’t be very happy about that because he is their main source of goals.”Ninth-placed Saints have failed to register a league away win since beating West Ham, and Le Tissier is not convinced his former club can go home with all three points. “Bournemouth have home advantage and they’ve been pretty strong there this season. It’s not often that I‘m not really confident that Southampton will get a result,” he said.
“But the way they played last season, when they beat us pretty comfortably, I don’t think we had a shot on target in the whole game so I am not overly confident going into this one.”
* Le Tissier and former Southampton team mate Francis Benali have launched 73 Management (www.73management.co.uk) a new football management service they say promises players and their families an all-encompassing support network.
Editing by Ed Osmond