O’Neill great value in next Premier League boss to leave market

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Southampton’s 2-0 defeat at West Brom has left Nigel Adkins perilously close to the chop; he’s into odds-on to be the first Premier League manager to be relieved of his duties this season.

The man at the St Mary’s helm can be backed at 8/13 to be the next to leave, yet the way Sunderland have been playing of late, having a dabble on Martin O’Neill to beat Adkins to the punch at a lofty 12/1 could prove a shrewd move.

Sunderland’s home defeat to Aston Villa must’ve got the alarm bells at the Stadium of Light ringing, if they weren’t already after Middlesbrough played them off the park in the Capital One Cup fourth round.

The Aston Villa loss – which was the Villans first three points on the road under Paul Lambert – represented the fifth game in succession where they failed to put a player on the scoresheet, meaning Demba Ba remains the only Sunderland goalscorer since Steven Fletcher bagged the solitary strike of an uninspiring 1-0 win over Wigan.

Aside from Ba, the Scottish international is the only player to register a 2012/13 Premier League goal in Mackem red and white and the blame for this deficiency in the final-third can only fall at the manager’s feet.

He turned a struggling side into one of the top-flight’s form teams when he assumed control from Steve Bruce last term and it looked as though another O’Neill miracle-working was in store on Wearside.

His ethos of achievement through hard work and determination is admirable, while his man management skills can’t be questioned yet his boring, dated, prehistoric style of play doesn’t seem to be having the same effect as what it did during his Villa tenure.

The reason is simple – they don’t have the strikers required to thrive in this system.

Fletcher is a solid Premier League frontman; give him chances and he’ll put them away, yet he is not the sort of burly striker, like Andy Carroll, for instance, who will flourish in a system with countless crosses coming his way, though that is not to say he can’t score with his head.

He bagged the most headers in the Premier League last season, but that was playing off a target man in Kevin Doyle, not performing the role himself. His new responsibility at Sunderland may point to the sudden barren spell he’s found himself on.

O’Neill is an avid fan of the big ‘un and a little ‘un up front (of course he is) and would ideally have a bustling target man to partner Fletcher, in the mould of Emile Heskey, John Hartson or John Carew.

However, bringing one in isn’t an option until January and, unfortunately for the Northern Irishman, there’s plenty of football still to be played between now and then.

That’s assuming they can even afford to bring one in after spending a fortune on Fletcher and Adam Johnson, who has failed to deliver the goods his fellow big-money acquisition has in his fledgling Black Cats career.

If he can’t find a source of goals soon, and it’s hard to envisage where he will, a few quid on his 12/1 could balloon into a tidy, wallet-bursting sum if Adkins can save his skin on the south coast.

All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date

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