Sess can be Sunderland’s fox-in-the-box

Stephane Sessegnon
Stephane Sessegnon
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STEPHANE Sessegnon can develop into Sunderland’s fox-in-the-box – despite breaking his duck for the campaign from outside the penalty area, according to Black Cats boss Martin O’Neill.

Sessegnon has predominantly been used as an orthodox forward under O’Neill’s stewardship, yet has not been able to drastically improve his goal return, with last weekend’s stunning 25-yard strike at Fulham his first since March.

O’Neill is keen for Sessegnon to maintain his role as the lynchpin of Sunderland’s attacking play.

But he believes the Benin international can complement the spectacular by improving upon his predatory instincts and netting some tap-ins.

O’Neill told the Echo: “I’m not so sure that at this stage of his career, he’ll ever be what you would term a natural scorer.

“But I do think he can add goals to his game.

“At the minute, I suppose he drops a bit deep for us. He does that with a willingness to help us out in midfield because we might be a little bit short.

“Of course if he’s dropping deep, it’s then very difficult for him to go and advance and get in good areas.

“But when we are on the attack and he becomes the focal point, I think he can pick it up closer to goal and then he doesn’t have that big journey to go.

“I’m not saying everything has to be an individually brilliant goal like the one at Fulham. I think he can look for tap-ins coming across the area and be more alert.”

Sessegnon managed the best goal return of his career last season after finishing joint top of Sunderland’s scoring charts with eight.

But O’Neill believes the 28-year-old should be looking for double figures after missing just three games last season and being ever-present so far this year.

“I don’t want him to lose the ability to pick the right pass when it’s there,” he said. “But over the course of the season, I think he’s got enough ability to manoeuvre the ball around the penalty area.

“He’s got a really good shot. You see it when he hits them in training.

“There’s no reason why he shouldn’t score double figures in a season.

“He’s often enough on the pitch, he’ll play quite a number of minutes on the field.”

Sessegnon’s goal was evidence of the improvement being made by the former Paris St Germain man though after struggling during the opening three months of the season.

And O’Neill hopes the gradual return to form of last season’s Player of the Year, will provide a boost to his team-mates.

“I’d be inclined to think players should be looking at their own performances to see how they’re doing,” added O’Neill. “But of course if somebody is playing brilliantly and helping the team get through a tough period, it helps.

“It’s a boost for all of us if you’re quality players start to perform with a great deal of confidence.”