MARTIN O’Neill admits that last week’s signing of 6ft 2in midfielder Alfred N’Diaye, and the prospective arrival of 6ft 5in defender Kader Mangane this week, is part of a conscious effort to add power and height to a squad which lacks it, writes GRAEME ANDERSON.
But the Black Cats’ boss insists no-one should get too carried away with the physical aspects of the signings – he’s still expecting those players to play a bit too!
N’Diaye was given a cameo role against West Ham at the weekend – coming on as a substitute in the last 10 minutes with the game already won.
He played brightly and might have scored with his first touch in English football.
And O’Neill hopes that whoever he signs this month will impress the crowd with the quality of their football rather than just mere physique.
“Alfred coming in, it’s not just absolutely and utterly to do with the size aspect of things,” he said.
“I think he has the talent and the energy as well and I think he could be a really decent hit here.
“The reality is we are a bit small as a squad, maybe the smallest in the Premier League, and we had problems with the physical aspect in some games earlier in the season.
“We found it difficult.
“But, having said that, mighty atom David Vaughan came in against West Ham – all of about 5ft 7in of him – and was as good as anyone on the pitch.”
Without any new signings in the starting line-up – and having handed Vaughan and Titus Bramble rare starts – Sunderland put in as good a performance against the Hammers as they have done against anyone this season.
And O’Neill put that down to a number of factors.
“After the game against Bolton, I gave all those who weren’t injured a couple of days off,” he revealed.
“They’d put heart and soul into the festive programme, even though it didn’t always come off, but maybe that rest did them good because there was a lot of vitality about them.
“Maybe it was that.
“Maybe it was because of the lift we got from our second-half comeback at Bolton, maybe it was something to do with the fact that we are clearly trying to reinforce.
“We are looking to add strength in depth and Alfred coming in has certainly given us a lift.
“But it was great to get a performance like that, that’s the most we’ve dominated in a game all season.
“And great for the goals to be shared around, too – Seb Larsson, Adam Johnson and James McClean all getting on the scoresheet.
“Early in the season, if Steven Fletcher didn’t get a goal you wondered where we would get one from.
“But that has sorted itself out now, others are chipping in and that’s just one of a number of pleasing things to take from the game.”