Goals, goals, goals: O'Neill wants to turn Sunderland into a free scoring side
14:31 GMT, 27 April 2012
14:31 GMT, 27 April 2012
Sunderland boss Martin O'Neil will target goals as he plots the way ahead for the club.
The Black Cats entertain relegation candidates Bolton on Saturday all but mathematically safe themselves after launching an impressive fightback under their new manager.
However, the impetus has rather drained away from their season since a demoralising FA Cup quarter-final replay defeat by Everton on March 27.
Goals have been in depressingly short supply in recent weeks – the Black Cats have not found the back of the net in their last four games – and that will be a significant factor when O'Neill draws up his recruitment plans for the summer.
In need of goals: Martin O'Neill wants more goals at Sunderland next season
He said: 'We don't have anybody in double figures at this moment scoring goals. At the end of the season, if you are going to have some sort of success, you are going to have to have that.
'You are going to have to have at least two players in double figures and possibly three, and one of those scoring a quite substantial number over 10, for a start.
'We have disguised the fact over the weeks by being able to share them around, but when they are not coming from other areas, then of course you start looking at centre-forwards and scoring goals.
'You have got to be in positions to score goals. We need to be able to do that, we need to do it more often and we need to be able to score goals inside the six-yard box.'
Looking to be: Fraizer Campbell scored a few goals on his return from injury, but they have dried up in recent weeks
Loan striker Nicklas Bendtner has just seven goals to his name to date this season, with both Stephane Sessegnon and midfielder Sebastian Larsson, who will miss the last three games after undergoing groin surgery, one ahead of the Denmark international.
Bendtner is unlikely to find a new permanent home at the Stadium of Light next season as he contemplates a future away from Arsenal, and with Asamoah Gyan destined to make a permanent switch from Wearside following his year on loan at Al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates, there is little doubt about O'Neill's main focus.
The market for goalscorers will be as fierce as ever this summer, although O'Neill saw the type of player he would like in the shape of Athletic Bilbao frontman Fernando Llorente as he fired his club into the Europa League final last night.
Not sticking around: Nicklas Bendtner is unlikely to be at the Stadium of Light next season
He said: 'Have a look at Athletic Bilbao's game last night – the centre-forward there was prepared to come out and play. He's a brilliant centre-forward.'
O'Neill added with a smile: 'Is he available'
The Ulsterman is yet to hold detailed talks with owner and chairman Ellis Short about his summer rebuilding programme, but is confident of the Texan's support.
He said: 'That will be pretty important, to see what his views are for the football club, and to put my own views across as well.
'Ellis wants to do well by the football club and I think it will be interesting to see how things develop.'
Set to go: Asamoah Gyan looks set to sign for Al-Ain
In the meantime, O'Neill and his players will concentrate their efforts on finishing the season with a flourish after allaying their own fears, and that could mean plunging Bolton further into trouble.
The manager said: 'A few months ago, I certainly thought we wouldn't have the number of points on the board that we do have now, so from our own viewpoint, it is actually a relief not to be involved down there, a genuine relief.
'It would be great if we could finish in the top 10. It wasn't my target in December, but after we had hauled ourselves out of the relegation zone, then of course you start to set other targets.
'It would be nice. That is an aim.'
O'Neill will be without Larsson and full-back Kieran Richardson, who has undergone a similar operation, while Craig Gardner is suspended.