SUNDERLAND have jetted off to Dubai for a break and a chance to get in some warm-weather training.
The trip to the United Arab Emirates will also give Martin O’Neill the chance to work more with new signings Danny Graham, Alfred N’Diaye and Kader Mangane.
And, in particular, it will offer the chance for the Sunderland manager to look at ways to best use £5million signing Graham – the former Swansea striker looking as though he could play in a variety of formations, either as partner to Steven Fletcher or Stephane Sessegnon or as a lone frontman.
O’Neill has had barely any time to work with his squad since the transfer window closed and, for that reason, will welcome the break enforced by next weekend being given over to FA Cup ties.
He said: “We have a chance now this week to have the players working together and we’ll see how that goes on.
“It’s a chance for us do more with the new boys in particular – we haven’t had much chance to do that with the internationals on last week and so many of our players away and this should be valuable time for us.
“In terms of the game against Arsenal at the weekend, I was delighted Danny Graham got a great reception from our fans on his home debut because he’s a good professional who will do well for us.
“He wants to put all the other stuff about his Newcastle roots to one side now and get on with helping Sunderland.
“And I think he’ll do well for us.
“I think he’s someone who will sneak a goal or two for us when we haven’t been playing well or don’t deserve it, and it’s up to us to get the best of him.
“We can be flexible when it comes to players.
“We changed the side around against Arsenal to accommodate people and I don’t think we’ve got just the one specific system – at least I hope we don’t.
“And, in time, there’s absolutely no reason why say Fletcher and Graham can’t play alongside each other. It’s just a matter of time and I don’t see that being a massive problem.”
O’Neill will be loathe to lose Sessegnon from his side if he goes for a straight-forward two strikers up front option – even though he admits the Benin international often frustrates just as much as he delights.
The manager reflected: “Sessegnon is someone who can beat and go past players so easily and it’s great for us to have that in our side, but he should be scoring double figures every season.
“It’s frustrating because he could be priceless considering his ability.
“I always fancy him to do something or beat his man when he’s in the mood and I see him do it all the time in training and score goals, too.
“We just need to get more of those goals from him in first-team matches.”