Paolo rues lack of Sunderland’s striking options

PROMOTED: Mikael Mandron.

PROMOTED: Mikael Mandron.

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PAOLO DI CANIO believes Sunderland’s attacking ranks have been under-manned this season.

Academy scholar Mikael Mandron has been the only available frontman in reserve for Di Canio’s first two games in charge, with injuries ruling Danny Graham out at Chelsea – although he was included on the bench – and Connor Wickham at Newcastle last weekend.

With top scorer Steven Fletcher sidelined until the end of the season, Di Canio’s options up front won’t stretch beyond Wickham and Graham until the summer, albeit Stephane Sessegnon has been restored to the support striker role under the Italian’s stewardship.

Sunderland’s head coach says the squad he inherited from Martin O’Neill needed more strength in the final third, with Graham only arriving in January as a replacement for the offloaded Fraizer Campbell.

“I don’t want to be critical, but if you’re a team who wants to stay up, or a team who wants to win the league, I think you need five strikers,” said Di Canio, who has his first home match in charge against Everton on Saturday.

“Not three or four; five – one of which should be a young one like Wickham.

“This club only had Fletcher until January and Sessegnon, who is a second striker.

“What happens if Fletcher gets a cold? Danny Graham arrived in January and now he’s back in the team, but you can’t afford to be short on strikers.

“Wherever you are in the league, you need to score goals.”

Even though Di Canio’s forward options will remain thin, he believes Sunderland can still field sufficient firepower to retain their Premier League status.

One of the immediate changes Di Canio has implemented during just two-and-a-half weeks in charge, has been a concerted effort to get more men in the box.

Di Canio added: “We still have enough players to score goals.

“Why?

“I’ve watched games (from earlier in the season) and we didn’t have more than one or two players in the box.

“Players were having to go 60 or 70 yards with the ball. That was the strategy, fair enough, everybody has their strategies. I don’t want to excuse anyone.

“But now you’ve seen that we’ve got four or five players in the box and we create chances.

“You have more options on the edge of the box too where someone can shoot, whether it be (Seb) Larsson, Craig (Gardner) or Alfred (N’Diaye).”

Everton come to Wearside still chasing a Champions League place, with left-back Leighton Baines gunning for all three points. “We are talking about keeping in touching distance. We will just try to keep ourselves in the mix,” he said.