MARTIN O’Neill will press ahead with plans to bring more goalscorers to Wearside this week, but new recruit Alfred N’Diaye is happy to do his bit.
The 22-year-old Frenchman joined this month with a reputation as a holding midfielder, but believes there is more to his game and would love the opportunity to show it. N’Diaye nearly scored with his first touch as a Sunderland player, putting it just wide of the West Ham United goal.
Although given a holding role in his full debut at Wigan Athletic, he crossed for Steven Fletcher to score and headed a good opportunity over the crossbar. “Sometimes I like to get forward,” he explained. “I like to work defensively but I don’t like to stay there all the time.
“My first job is to play well defensively, get the ball and give good passes. Sometimes if I see a space to run into, I’ll get forward. I don’t go every time in a game.
“The player I loved was Patrick Vieira, he was a very good player. He was definitely the best midfielder in the world. He used to take the ball and just charge forward.
“I would love to be able to play like him, but it’s very difficult! I hope to be a good player like him. That’s what I’m working for. He’s a legend in France.” Having
sold Fraizer Campbell to Cardiff City, loaned Ji Dong-won to Augsburg and with Louis Saha about to be released, O’Neill is desperately short of firepower. Fletcher is now the only out-and-out centre-forward on Sunderland’s books to have scored in this season’s Premier League.
Sunderland have denied any interest in Lazio’s Mauro Zàrate, but the news that his compatriot Luciano Becchio has handed in a transfer request at Leeds United offers a potential fall-back available at short notice if they are unable to land top target Danny Graham.
That Swansea City are at the Stadium of Light in the Premier League tomorrow will allow some face-to-face discussions, but Stoke City are now said to have joined Norwich City in expressing an interest, and the Swans are still trying to sign a replacement for the Gateshead-born forward.
Goals from midfield would lighten the load and N’Diaye believes his 18 months in Turkey have left him better equipped to help.
“In France I didn’t score many because my team was set up differently,” he pointed out. “Sometimes I played in defence, sometimes in midfield.
“When I played in midfield I was normally a defensive midfielder and I didn’t join the attack.
“In Turkey we played good football and I had more opportunities to get forward. I scored eight goals.
“We played 4-2-3-1 and in my first year I played alongside a holding midfielder who was more defensive than me so I played box-to-box. Sometimes I’d hold, but sometimes I’d be able to get forward.”
A similar role could be an option when captain Lee Cattermole returns from a minor knee injury, which could be tomorrow.
“I haven’t played with him yet because he’s injured, but I’ve spoken with him,” said N’Diaye.
“I know him and I’ve seen him play for England Under-21s.
“He’s more defensive than me. For me it’s not a problem. I don’t mind playing defensively or more offensively.”
N’Diaye has been encouraged by his early impressions of his new team. “I hope we can continue to play like we have in my first few weeks here,” he said.
“We have won two league games and we’ve won five of our last eight.
“I hope we can keep playing like this and maybe finish in tenth position.
“I think that would be good for Sunderland.
“I want to work hard to play a lot of games and do well for Sunderland.”