MARTIN O’NEILL wants to ease the burden on Stephane Sessegnon’s shoulders by adding more creativity to Sunderland’s ranks this month.
O’Neill’s priority in the transfer market remains on boosting his options up front after seeing a bid for Wolves striker Steven Fletcher rejected earlier this week.
But Sunderland are also in the market for a wideman and a creative midfielder after mustering a modest 45 goals in 38 Premier League outings last season.
Junior Hoilett was on Sunderland’s radar, although the Echo understands the Canadian winger was never offered terms by the Black Cats after O’Neill learned the 22-year-old was always keen to be reunited with former boss Mark Hughes at QPR.
Blackpool winger Matt Phillips is another who has been watched by the Wearsiders, although Sunderland are not thought to have made a bid.
But O’Neill wants options to complement Sessegnon after the Benin international started all but three of Sunderland’s Premier League programme last season - his sole absence stemming from his red card in the Tyne-Wear derby.
O’Neill said: “Absolutely, we need to bring in more creativity.
“There’s a lot of reliance on Sessegnon and we need to share the burden a bit.
“It’s not a guarded secret that we need to score more goals and make more goals.
“I thought at the end of the season that the number of games Sess had played caught up with him.
“He lost a wee bit of sharpness over the last four or five games - maybe just after Manchester City when he was absolutely brilliant.
“We were unable to give him a breather at all.
“It didn’t seem to affect (James) McClean as much, but he’s young and athletic and it’s all new to him.
“But we weren’t in a position to take a creative player out of our team and leave him on the bench for a while.
“We might have had to substitute him in a match, but we had to start with as much creativity as we could and I think we ran out of steam on that.”