Twelve million pounds is a lot of money to live up to, especially when you’ve returned a mere ten and twelve league goals in your last two seasons in the Premier League. This year, however, Steven Fletcher should score a lot more than that for Sunderland, with ammunition being provided by one of the best counter-attacking midfields in the league.
Adding Adam Johnson to a midfield already containing Sessegnon, McClean and Larsson gives an indication of how Martin O’Neill will be looking to sweep the ball up the field rapidly, with his midfielders comfortable either with dribbling directly at the opposition or swinging early balls into the box, where you would expect Fletcher to be lurking.
The Scot is a very gifted natural finisher, particularly in the air, and his poor scoring record at Wolves was more an indication of some poor luck with injuries, and a defensively minded midfield behind him, than any deficiencies in his own game. Opta stats marked Fletcher as one of the most clinical strikers in the league last year, converting 7 of his 10 clear cut chances.
He also had a shot accuracy of 38% last season, comparable with the very best strikers with Robin Van Persie’s rated at 43% and Sergio Aguero’s 39%.
O’Neill will set Sunderland up in a way that plays to his strengths, all Fletcher will be required to do is get on the end of breaks, and his goal-scoring start at the Wearside club shows that he is more than capable of doing just that.
In addition to his crossing ability, Larsson’s pinpoint delivery from dead ball situations will also provide plenty of aerial opportunities for Fletcher. If the striker maintains his sharp conversion rate, he will be netting plenty more than the twelve he got last year, and it wouldn’t be unexpected if he scored 20 league goals this season, handsomely justifying his hefty price tag.
O’Neill must be applauded for identifying a striker that fits into his team’s playing style so adeptly, and the Sunderland board must also take a lot of credit for backing their manager in paying a relatively high transfer fee for an unglamorous player.
image: © vagueonthehow