ALFRED N’Diaye insists Stephane Sessegnon is now a better player than the one he faced in France’s Ligue 1.
N’Diaye’s January arrival at the Stadium of Light has seen him line up alongside the player he was one tasked with marshalling.
The 22-year-old had just broken into the first-team at French outfit Nancy when he went head-to-head on several occasions with Sessegnon, before the Benin international joined Sunderland from Paris St-Germain in January 2011.
And with Sessegnon returning to the form over the last two games which saw him romp to Sunderland’s Player of the Season title last year, N’Diaye believes the forward has progressed after more than two years of Premier League football.
N’Diaye said: “I think now he’s better because he’s played two or three years here in the best league in the world.
“I played against him three or four times in France. He was No 10, I was No 6, and it was very difficult to contain him.
“He’s technical, fast and strong so it was hard.
“But he’s better than when I played against him in France.
“He’s such a good player and we need him in form now.
“When he runs with the ball, he’s very dangerous for the other team and if he plays like he did against West Brom, it’s good for us.”
Sessegnon, who netted a stunner in November’s reverse encounter against tomorrow’s opponents Fulham, ended a two-month goal drought when he netted at West Brom last weekend, but N’Diaye isn’t too damning over the 28-year-old’s scoring record.
“If he scored more goals, he wouldn’t be here!” joked the midfielder.
But after the trip to the Hawthorns culminated in a third successive defeat for Sunderland, N’Diaye has stressed the importance of the next three games against bottom half peers Fulham, QPR and Norwich.
Although the France Under-21 international insists there is no panic in the Black Cats camp, he knows Martin O’Neill’s side need to put some points on the board after dropping to 15th spot.
N’Diaye added: “I hope we can win against Fulham tomorrow – we need to because now we’re down to 15th position.
“That’s not good. We need a win because after the next three games, we’re facing difficult teams in Manchester United and Chelsea.
“I don’t think there’s any nerves, but we know it’s a dangerous position.
“There’s no panic among anyone, but we know we need some results and the next three are against teams around us in the table.”
Meanwhile, Fulham boss Martin Jol has admitted he tried to beat Sunderland to the signing of Steven Fletcher, who has scored 10 times since his £12m move from Wolves last summer.
“Yes (I was interested in Fletcher), but he was quite expensive,” Jol said.
“Sunderland are well-known for getting these players in. They did that with Connor Wickham. They paid a lot of money for him.
“You could say that Fletcher is doing well, but why shouldn’t he be? He is a terrific No9.”
Jol has former Sunderland midfielder Kieran Richardson available for the game, as well as Simon Davies and Kerim Frei are all available for the game, with long-term absentee Mahamadou Diarra the only absentee from training this week.