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Prolific striker high on O'Neill's list
HAVING watched his side fail to score in their last four outings, Martin O'Neill admits he will be looking to bring in at least one striker capable of achieving double figures in the summer, but that person is unlikely to be Asamoah Gyan.
The Black Cats are enduring their longest barren spell in front of goal this season and have now gone six hours without finding the back of the net in games against Tottenham, Everton, Wolves and Aston Villa.
With Nicklas Bendnter likely to depart the Stadium of Light when his season-long loan finishes at the end of the season, O'Neill will be left with an attacking line-up of Stephane Sessegnon, Fraizer Campbell, Connor Wickham and Ji Dong-won.
And although Gyan is still technically a Sunderland player, O'Neill doesn't expect to see the former Rennes man back on Wearside next season.
The Ghana international joined Al-Ain in September as part of a lucrative loan deal and it seems the Black Cats boss has now accepted that move will be made permanent, whether it is to Al-Ain or another club, in the summer.
Sessegnon, along with Seb Larsson, is the club's joint top scorer with eight goals in all competitions, while Bendtner has also chipped in with seven.
Behind them there is James McClean on five and Craig Gardner on three, but as things stand O'Neill doesn't have a striker or two capable of producing 15-20 goals a season, something he admits will need to be addressed in the summer.
"I think it is more than fine tuning," the Black Cats boss said.
"We don't have anyone in double figures scoring goals and if you are going to have some sort of success you want one or two sometimes three and well over ten.
"We have disguised it by sharing it round and when they are not coming from other areas you look at centre forwards and you have to be in a position to score goals.
"Against Villa we created really good positions to score goals. The one we did get was chalked off by the officials and that doesn't help when a perfectly good goal is chalked off, but we need to do it more often and we need to be able to score goals inside the six yard box."
With the summer transfer window fast approaching, O'Neill will be busy drawing up a list of candidates he will take to chairman and owner Ellis Short
The Black Cats boss revealed he is yet to have an in depth discussion with Short over his summer budget plans, but he has not ruled out looking at possible targets in the Football League or north of the border.
He said: "If you look hard enough and study hard enough, there is someone capable of stepping up.
"You only have to look at Norwich and Swansea for players who have come up, done very well and not looked out of place so there is a possibility.
"Or maybe it is abroad, they are there, Llorente the big lad is going to cost more than £1million.
"Jelavic is a decent player and he was at Rangers and he could score and people think can you do it in the big league, Henrik Larsson proved that, not saying he is Henrik Larsson but he has looked a really good player."
The Black Cats' recent slump in form has seen any hopes of making a late push for a European place disappear, while it has also put their hopes of emulating last season's top ten finish in jeopardy.
But O'Neill is still confident his side can finish the season well and insists his side will fight for as many points as they can against Bolton, Fulham and Manchester United.
The Black Cats boss also revealed his surprise at comments from Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini, who recently claimed that title rivals Manchester United have an easy run-in.
"It took me by surprise because I had to check that the teams they (United) have to play beat Manchester City like Swansea and ourselves," O'Neill said.
"We have taken four of them but they have actually lost five against us this season but he had obviously forgotten to check the fixture list properly. I think you just have to shrug it off and remember it for the next four years.
I don't know what his insinuation was to tell the truth. But if he had any idea about the league at all he would know that the integrity of the league is pretty good.
"I don't have an email address for him but I really thought about sending him to tell him to keep an eye on what he says, but I didn't."