O’Neill urging Sunderland players to relax, says Larsson

Seb Larsson
Seb Larsson
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SEB LARSSON says Martin O’Neill has spent this week urging Sunderland’s faltering attackers to forget their worries in the final third.

Successive blanks against Middlesbrough and Aston Villa have sharpened the scrutiny on Sunderland’s troubles going forward, with the lowest scorers in the Premier League mustering a measly six goals in their nine top-flight outings all season.

Manager O’Neill held a team meeting at the Academy of Light this week, where he encouraged Sunderland’s goal threats to take the pressure off themselves mentally and play with greater freedom going forward.

Midfielder Larsson (pictured) said: “You could see, especially against Villa, once we got into situations where it’s time to create stuff, the confidence is not there.

“We get a bit tentative and a bit nervous and we end up not creating anything at all.

“That’s what the manager has been speaking to us about, to try to play with more freedom and not worry so much.

“That’s where we need to get to. We’ve definitely got the players to create things and score a lot more goals, but we’re not doing it at the moment.

“It’s one thing talking about it, but we’ve got to show it on the pitch.

“Obviously, in the last week with two very disappointing defeats, that’s on everyone’s mind at the moment.

“We’re well aware that we haven’t lived up to expectations yet, but hopefully we can turn that around very soon.”

Larsson is honest enough to admit that confidence is low in Sunderland’s ranks after failing to find the net in four of their last five outings.

But, despite doom and gloom descending on Wearside in the wake of back-to-back Stadium of Light defeats, the Swedish international has rubbished talk about a scrap at the wrong end of the table, with Sunderland just nine games into their season.

“Am I thinking about any relegation battle or anything like that? No, not at all,” said the 27-year-old former Birmingham City player. “There’s only a quarter of the season gone so there’s loads left.

“There’s too many good players here for that. We’ve just got to focus on turning things around and head up that league.

“It’s there for everyone to see that confidence is not sky high in front of goal and it won’t be after not scoring that many.

“What are you going to do about it? You just keep working hard and wait to get a couple of goals and a couple of wins.

“Then things will turn around very quickly. You can lose confidence very quickly, but you can also pick it up very quickly.”