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Sunderland turn to Saha to beef up striking options

| 16.08.2012

Louis Saha is on the cusp of making Sunderland his sixth Premier League club as the free agent is set for ‘advanced’ talks with the Wearsiders today.

A price of 7/1 for Martin O’Neill’s men to win at the Emirates on Saturday is a fair reflection on the desperate shortage of striking options at his disposal, with Connor Wickham and Frazier Campbell the only recognisable centre forwards in the current squad.

However, with Campbell’s well-publicised knee problems and O’Neill’s unwillingness to throw 19-year-old, Wickham, in at the Premier League deep end, recruitment in the final third has been priority number one for the Black Cats throughout the summer – and for good reason.

In the 15 games since Sunderland last took on Arsenal they managed just 12 goals, failing to score in five of the seven turnouts that closed the campaign.

Only one of these goals were scored by an attacker under their employ for the new season – Stephane Sessegnon – and he is a far cry from your archetypal number nine, as well as being ruled out of Saturday’s trip to north London through injury.

Ominously, the goal drought has continued throughout pre-season where Sunderland have failed to find the back of the net in four of their six friendlies. This barren spell includes shut-outs against sides such as Leicester, Hartlepool United and Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma.

O’Neill has sought to address this matter with two extravagant bids for Scottish international, Stephen Fletcher; the latest reported around the £12 million mark.

Yet with Wolves knocking both bids back, Sunderland have turned to 34-year-old Saha as a more immediate solution to their striker crisis.

The former France international has netted 85 top flight goals in 277 appearances and his pace and power can prove a huge headache for central defenders when he’s on song.

Now, in the twilight of his career, the number of performances he’s got left in his top drawer can be called into question, as the majority of fans on the terraces at White Hart Lane will attest to following his short-lived spell with Spurs last term.

His experience, though, will be of use in the development of youngsters like Wickham and, if the Mackems give in to Wolves’ extortion and sign Fletcher too, they could have a tidy partnership on their hands ahead of O’Neill’s first full season in charge.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.



James Middleton