SUNDERLAND hope to sign Louis Saha in time for their season opener against Arsenal at the Emirates on Saturday.
The vastly experienced striker flew to the North East yesterday morning and was in the Stadium of Light boardroom on the afternoon holding detailed talks with Martin O’Neill.
And with the former Manchester United, Everton and Spurs striker a free agent following his release by Tottenham, a deal is expected to be tied up swiftly.
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The news eases growing concern among fans that the Black Cats would fail to strengthen their front-line before the start of the season.
And while Saha, who turned 34 last week, is not the answer to Sunderland’s goalscoring problems, he could certainly provide part of the solution – having scored more Premier League goals than all the other strikers on Sunderland’s books put together!
His signing has yet to be officially announced but Sunderland hope to have him in their squad for the trip to London by signing him before the Friday midday registration deadline.
And although there will be question marks over his fitness and form, there’s no doubt a player of such experience is capable of adding a fresh dimension to Sunderland’s attacking options.
At times last season, the inexperience of Connor Wickham and Ji Dong-won was glaring, loanee Nicklas Bendtner’s reluctance to get in the box glaring, and Stephane Sessegnon’s physical slightness obvious.
Saha’s arrival would help to address all those deficiencies although O’Neill will be required to get the most out of a player who is now entering the twilight of his career and has been troubled by inconsistency and injuries.
His record though, speaks for itself.
The 20 times capped French international has scored 112 goals in 321 Premier League appearances, with his career blossoming at Fulham, Manchester United and Everton.
Saha spent the second half of last season at Tottenham Hotspur where he enhanced his reputation after a barren spell at the end of his time at Everton, crediting manager Harry Redknapp with inspiring the upturn.
But the striker left White Hart Lane last month in the wake of Redknapp’s sacking as manager and is now available on a Bosman free transfer.
O’Neill will continue to press for new signings and has not given up hope of landing Wolves forward Steven Fletcher, despite the West Midlands club’s insistence this week that it will take £15m to prise the Scot out of Molineux.
But Saha’s expected arrival would at least strengthen the manager’s options and finally ease some pressure over the Fletcher transfer saga.
Whether the striker would be fit enough to start at the Emirates remains to be seen but he could well be on the substitute’s bench, ready to offer the Black Cats an option in a game which is likely to see them play a 4-5-1 formation.
Saha has been on Sunderland’s radar for some time. The player was linked with the Black Cats back in June, at which time he indicated he was interested in a move to Wearside.
Sunderland have also been credited with renewed interest in Manchester City’s prolific young striker John Guidetti.
The 20-year-old Swede, who enjoyed a goal-laden loan spell at Feyenoord last season, has previously been linked with a loan move to Sunderland but it has been suggested City are now willing to allow him to leave Eastlands if a fee around the £6m mark can be agreed.