Sunderland’s rivals warned shattered Lamine Kone and Wahbi Khazri will come back even better after their break

Wahbi Khazri. Picture by FRANK REID
Wahbi Khazri. Picture by FRANK REID
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Sunderland’s rivals have been warned shattered January signings Lamine Kone and Wahbi Khazri will come back even better after the break.

The duo have taken the Premier League by storm since joining, helping the Black Cats take four points off Liverpool and Manchester United as Sunderland battle the drop.

It’ll give them a really good release from what they’ve found to be extremely difficult

Sam Allardyce

Sam Allardyce has been delighted with their instant impact but admits the new signings have all found the pace tough going, with a warm-weather training camp in Dubai coming at just the right time.

And he is backing his recruits - including Jan Kirchhoff and Dame N’Doye - to come back even stronger after this weekend’s enforced break.

“It’ll give them a really good release from what they’ve found to be extremely difficult, like they all do,” said Allardyce, when quizzed on whether the break will benefit the new signings most.

“They cannot imagine what [the league] is going to be like until they go in there.

“And when you see their faces when they come off, they realise then what they’ve come into.

“All of them have been pretty tired to say the least when they’ve come off the pitch since they started.

“Getting to grips with that has been extremely good.

“They’ve all contributed well.

“The more and more used to that they get, then hopefully they’ll produce better performances.

“But the performances they’ve put in until now have been very, very good.”

Khazri, operating wide left of a front three, has contributed towards four goals since making his first start for the Black Cats with two assists against Liverpool and a goal and assist in the 2-1 win over Manchester United.

Kone, meanwhile, has been outstanding at the back alongside captain John O’Shea.

The Ivory Coast international headed home the winner against United, albeit the goal eventually went down as an own goal by stopper David De Gea.

The Sunderland squad jetted out to the Middle East on Monday to use the facilities at Dubai Sports City – run by ex-Real Madrid full-back Michel Salgado, who played under Allardyce at Blackburn.

Sunderland don’t have a game this weekend after being knocked out of the FA Cup at the third round stage by Arsenal.