MARTIN O’Neill believes Sunderland’s requirements in the transfer market would have been “glossed over” if they had achieved their top 10 goal.
Sunderland’s defeat against Manchester United on the final day of the season consigned the Black Cats to 13th spot in the table after ending the campaign on the back of an eight-game winless streak.
The conclusion to the season has proved an anti-climax compared to O’Neill’s first few months in charge, which saw Sunderland challenging the top eight and marching into the quarter finals of the FA Cup.
But O’Neill believes finishing two points adrift of last year’s tally is a fair representation of Sunderland’s current state.
And the Black Cats boss, who continues to be linked with Aston Villa’s out-of-contract defender Carlos Cuellar, says it has also provided a clear indication of where Sunderland must recruit this summer.
O’Neill told SportMail: “Despite us wanting to finish in the top 10, had we done so it might have glossed over a few things that we needed to address in terms of strengthening.
“Over 38 games, you finish where you deserve to finish.
“Certainly, there were one or two games on this winless run that we could and should have won, yet there were probably also a couple of games we won early on which we shouldn’t have done.
“It doesn’t matter - it levels itself out.
“Where we finished is probably where we deserved to finish and now it’s up to us to take it on from there next season.
“And after spending the second half of the season in charge here, I’ve a great idea about the strengths and weaknesses of the side and what we need to do to try to improve.”
Nevertheless, O’Neill remains satisfied by his first six months on Wearside after inheriting a side engulfed in trouble at the wrong end of the division.
Although Sunderland’s form petered away on the home straight, the Black Cats were never in danger of relegation at the business end of the campaign after reaching 40 points following March’s victory over QPR.
O’Neill added: “I came in in December and there was hardly time to breathe - day passed into night for me.
“That was no bad thing though. By spending most of my time up here with Steve Walford, Seamus McDonagh and Jim Henry - the staff who came in with me - there was an intensity about it.
“We had no thought other than to win games and pick up points.
“We kind of got out of trouble more quickly than I anticipated and maybe the foot did go off the pedal a little bit - although I’m not 100 per cent convinced about that.”