Big Sam challenges strikers to hit double figures and save Sunderland from drop

Duncan WatmoreDuncan Watmore
Duncan Watmore
Sunderland will beat the drop if two of their frontmen can net double figures, believes Sam Allardyce.

The Black Cats boss has a selection headache for tomorrow’s trip to Arsenal, with Duncan Watmore, Fabio Borini, Adam Johnson and Jeremain Lens all in contention to replace the injured Jermain Defoe.

Alongside Steven Fletcher, Defoe is Sunderland’s joint top scorer this season with four Premier League goals, with Allardyce regarding the England international as his “one proven goalscorer”.

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But Allardyce believes that if the other attacking options in Sunderland’s ranks can contribute with meaningful goal tallies, then the Black Cats will ensure their Premier League survival.

Allardyce said: “There’s goals in those four (Watmore, Borini, Johnson and Lens) and we need to share the goals.

“Jermain is what I would consider to be our one proven goalscorer. He’s done that over the years.

“With the rest, you challenge them to see if any of them can get to double figures.

“How many of them can do that?

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“If we got two over double figures - and if we can keep the defensive side of it - it will almost guarantee us to pick up points and get out of this position, no problem.”

Watmore and Borini are the favourites to take Defoe’s spot in the starting XI, with both offering a threat on the counter-attack against the side lying just two points off the Premier League summit.

Allardyce is braced for the predictable scenario of Sunderland spending the bulk of the encounter on the back foot while Arsenal monopolise possession.

But he says Sunderland need to be clinical on their forays into the Gunners half, particularly if they can frustrate Arsene Wenger’s side for long spells.

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“We know we’re going to spend a period of time where we’ll have to be particularly patient and concentrate on frustrating the opposition,” added Allardyce.

“The more we frustrate them, the better chance we might have of exploiting the spaces they may leave.

“Anyone who produces a result at Arsenal, does it through frustrating them and then capitalising on the opportunities that come their way and being clinical.

“It’s going to be a big test for us, but one we should look forward to that little bit more, based on the back-to-back wins we’ve just got.

“We’re in a better position, but we’re still a long, long way from being out of trouble.”