MARTIN O’Neill believes Stéphane Sessègnon has the ability to become one of the Premier League’s great playmakers – but only if he becomes more selfish on the pitch.
The Sunderland manager has been delighted with the Benin international’s return to form over recent games and was especially impressed with his excellent goal which sealed Sunday’s vital 3-1 win at Fulham.
However, O’Neill wants more from last season’s Black Cats player of the year in terms of goals and consistency, starting with tomorrow’s home match against in-form West Bromwich Albion. Sessègnon is at his best when he plays just behind Steven Fletcher in the No 10 role used by most Premier League sides.
It is a position his manager believes he can perfect if he adds one or two important aspects to his game.
O’Neill said: “Sess has been encouraged to shoot more in training because he should score more goals. They don’t have to be spectacular, but he should score more for the ability he possesses.
“Sometimes he can be too unselfish. If you saw him in training, you would not believe he would be suffering any sort of confidence problem because
he has been very good. He is getting sharper, which is important.
“He should be able to score double figures with his ability and this is something he should be putting into this thought process.
“I wouldn’t say his type is a luxury player.
“I would say they are a necessity, such as Santi Cazorla at Arsenal, who is fantastic.
“Sess has the ability to sit in that bracket. He has the natural talent to be in there, but more consistency would be great.
“There was a little period last season when you always felt something might happen when he reached the edge of the penalty area.
“He has been a bit frustrated with his own decision-making more than anything else, but the first-half of the game against Everton and that goal at Fulham should give him that boost.”
O’Neill spoke recently about Sessègnon having his head turned during the summer because he was told big clubs were ready to make their move for him, a move which didn’t come. The 28-year Benin international is now settled off the pitch, which has been of huge benefit to his performances.
Asked why the player had made such a slow start, O’Neill added: “My view is, and if you were to speak to Sess he might have it totally different, is a few people were telling him the major clubs would be in for him.
“Also his family was a bit unsettled at the time, but we have resolved that now and hopefully we are seeing signs of a return to form.
“He took little bit of time off, which I gave him in pre-season, and in retrospect maybe coming back six or seven days earlier to put some work in would have been better.
“I am not saying anything would have changed because he still played the opening game against Arsenal as centre-forward and, in fairness to the player, he does take two games to get going.”
Sunderland, meanwhile, have confirmed 20-year-old Irish defender John Egan will undergo an operation on the double fracture of his right leg over the weekend.