Could Fletcher's injury be a blessing in disguise for Sunderland?

The Scottish striker has been Sunderland's main source of goals this year, but has dried up of late, and Danny Graham could be a more natural foil for their attacking midfield.

On the face of it, the news that Steven Fletcher has been ruled out for over a month with an ankle injury is the latest in a run of bad luck that could end up with Sunderland dropping into the relegation zone by the end of the season.

Fletcher has been their top scorer this campaign, scoring a third of the team's overall 33 goals in the Premiership despite only managing to find the net three times since the turn of the year.

This goal drought has contributed to Sunderland's awful form, but it is also the reason why Fletcher's injury might help the side in the next months or so.

Martin O'Neill brought Danny Graham in during the January window, and has so far used the former Swansea striker alongside Fletcher with mixed results.

Now Fletcher is out, Graham might be deployed in a similar way as during his time at Swansea, where he worked as a lone striker to bring his midfield into the game in the final third.

Fletcher is an accomplished finisher, but his all round game does not always fit well with the likes of Stephane Sessegnon, a player whose form has dipped massively after an excellent season last year. In contrast Graham should be adept in holding up the ball and allowing Sunderland's midfielders more possession in dangerous areas of the pitch.

Given Fletcher's lack of goals, others will need to pick up the slack and this could well be easier to achieve without the Scot in the line-up.

Sessegnon, Gardner, McClean, Johnson and Larsson could all have been expected to add a few more goals to the team's total than they have done so far, and Graham can help them do this whilst adding a couple of goals himself Sunderland might prove a more dangerous team without Fletcher in their ranks.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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