Strike options will give Sunderland a huge boost – O’Shea

Sunderland's Paolo Di Canio, left, and captain John O'Shea.
Sunderland's Paolo Di Canio, left, and captain John O'Shea.

JOHN O’SHEA says Sunderland’s variety of striking options can ensure the Black Cats avoid the struggles of last season.

Sunderland mustered just 41 goals in 38 Premier League games last season as they finished fourth bottom in the table, with top scorer Steven Fletcher netting 11 of that tally.

But central defender O’Shea, captaining Sunderland here in Hong Kong, says the capture of £6million frontman Jozy Altidore has provided the Black Cats with a contrast of frontmen which can give them the attacking potency to avoid featuring in the relegation dogfight for a second successive campaign.

The powerful and pacy Altidore is a different specimen to poacher Fletcher and creator Stephane Sessegnon, while Paolo Di Canio can also call upon England Under-21 striker Connor Wickham and Ji Dong-won – back from a loan spell at Bundesliga side Ji Dong-won.

O’Shea told the Echo: “It’s so important to have different options up front.

“That was probably one of the main reasons for last season’s struggles.

“We weren’t creating enough or scoring enough.

“We won a lot of games by one goal, so if we could make things easier for everyone in the Stadium of Light, it would be nicer.

“Obviously, you’ll take a win by any means.

“But I think the important thing is the squad as a whole and its competition from midfield through to defence is a vital asset.

“That’s been the key to any good team I’ve been part of, quality competition from places.”

Altidore arrives at the Stadium of Light with a prolific goal record under his belt after netting 31 goals for Dutch side AZ Alkmaar last season.

The American international has proved himself on the Continent since his loan spell at Hull City as a teenager and O’Shea believes the 23-year-old will have no problems adapting to the Premier League in his second spell in the English top flight.

“I think he’ll definitely be more than ready for it physically,” added O’Shea.

“Speaking to him about his last time in the Premiership, he has had an amazing journey since then.

“He’s ended up scoring goals in Holland and become the national striker for the US as well.

“Hopefully he can continue that journey now by scoring goals in the Premiership and spearheading our success along with the other lads up front.”