Where will O'Neill turn this summer?

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Football/Golf Writer

THERE'S a sense of expectation on Wearside ahead of Martin O'Neill's first summer in charge of Sunderland.

What areas will he look to strengthen? Who will he look to sign? And which players will be moved on?

Despite the current run of eight matches - including an FA Cup replay defeat to Everton - without a win, O'Neill has shown during his first six months in charge that he has the managerial acumen to make his current squad an effective unit.

If he can bring in the sort of player he likes, to compliment those he intends to keep, then there is every reason for fans to believe there will be a bright future under his watch.

O'Neill has already spoken of an intention to ensure two players are capable of finding the net more than ten times in a season. It's likely to be the biggest task he faces.

In the Premier League, Nicklas Bendtner, due to return to Arsenal after his loan finishes on Sunday, has scored eight goals. Seb Larsson and Stephane Sessegnon both have seven.

With one match remaining of an entire season, it is hardly the sort of return in front of goal that will get defences shaking.

What O'Neill must do, though, is try to come up with a formula which will see such statistics improve next season. If he can do that then he stands a chance of delivering a team capable of closing the gap on those chasing European football.

There have been players mentioned. Wolves' Steven Fletcher, Aston Villa's Gabriel Agbonlahor and Kevin Davies are the three names to have been talked up the most.

What O'Neill must do is try to come up with a couple of gems like Everton and Newcastle did in January when they landed Nikica Jelavic and Papiss Cisse.

Sunderland owner Ellis Short must have thought Steve Bruce had done that when he agreed to pay out £13m for Asamoah Gyan after the 2010 World Cup.

With Gyan looking certain to have played his last game for the club ahead of a permanent summer switch to the Middle East, now Short will be lucky to get his money back.

He is sure to be on the look out for players to fill other areas of the pitch. Getting his attacking blend right will be the secret to success at the Stadium of Light.

At Fulham on Sunday they were wasteful in front of goal and lacked purpose inside the area until he scrapped the lone striker system which Sessegnon's style lends itself to.

Next season there will be changes, it will be O'Neill task to make sure they are the right ones.

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