MARTIN O’Neill will be on the look-out for goalscorers this summer, but the chances of him taking back the club’s record signing are pretty slim.
The Black Cats have not scored in five of their last six games – ironically they scored three at Manchester City in the other – and their lack of cutting edge is a major concern for the manager.
He will look to remedy it in the transfer market rather than bring Asamoah Gyan back from his loan in the United Arab Emirates.
Their top scorers this season are Sebastian Larsson and Stéphane Sessègnon with eight each in all competitions. Nicklas Bendtner’s seven-goal return will ensure his season-long loan from Arsenal is not made permanent.
Midfielder Craig Gardner was signed last summer on the back of a double-figure return with relegated Birmingham City, but has contributed just three goals for the Weasiders.
Fit-again Fraizer Campbell was handed a first England cap in February, but has only two this season.
“I think it is more than fine tuning,” said O’Neill when asked what was needed.
“We don’t have anyone in double figures and if you are going to have some sort of success you want one or two, sometimes three, and one player with well over ten (goals).
“We have disguised it by sharing it round and when they are not coming from other areas you look at centre-forwards.
“You have to be in a position to score goals and against Villa (in Sunderland’s last game, a 0-0 draw) we created really good positions to score goals but we need to do it more often. We need to be able to score goals inside the six-yard box.”
Sunderland have scored 42 goals in 35 league matches this season.
O’Neill is yet to be presented with his summer budget but even with £13m Gyan expected to leave he is prepared to look beyond the Premier League for cut-price talent.
“I did meet (chairman Ellis Short) a couple of weeks ago but he is going to afford that time (to discuss budgets),” said O’Neill.
“That will be pretty important to see what his views are and put my own views across too. It will be interesting to see how things develop.
“If you look hard enough there is someone capable of stepping up. You only have to look at Norwich and Swansea for players who have come up (into the Premier League from the Championship), really done very well and not looked out of place.
“Maybe it is abroad, they are there. I was very impressed by (Fernando) Llorente the other night but the lad is going to cost more than £1million.
“(Everton’s Nikica) Jelavic is a decent player and he was at Rangers. He has looked a really good player.”
Lee Cattermole has trained this week and may have an injection in his troublesome knee to play against Bolton Wanderers today. Titus Bramble is also back in training, but does not yet have the required match-fitness.
Cattermole has accepted a conditional caution for damaging five vehicles in Newcastle city centre on December 6. The captain will also reimburse the owners.
Bendtner was also initially charged over the incident, which occurred during O’Neill’s first week as manager, but his charges were dropped.
Meanwhile, Carlisle United have disciplined former Sunderland midfielder Liam Noble for his Twitter comments about the Black Cats.
The Football Association have also written to Noble.
“The club and player are co-operating fully with their requests,” said a Carlisle statement.
“The club can make no further comment until this process is complete.”
Noble joined Carlisle from Sunderland this season. Tweeting about the move, he described his former employers as a “s*** club” with “s*** fans”.