Sunderland player ratings so far this season: Three land big 9/10s as 4/10 given to struggling attacker
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It’s been a mixed start to the new Championship campaign for Sunderland, who opened their account with back-to-back defeats, but have since strung together an unbeaten streak of three matches to suggest that they might have what it takes to make an outside bid for the play-offs again this season.
The highlight so far has most certainly been a 5-0 thrashing of promotion favourites Southampton on home turf, and the Black Cats will be hoping that they can maintain that impressive form after the international break to really build some kind of momentum going forward.
With that in mind, we’ve taken a look at every Sunderland player who has appeared in the Championship so far this season - except Lyndon Gooch, who has since joined Stoke City - to determine who their star performers have been thus far, and who needs to up their game a little.
Anthony Patterson - 6
Not an awful start to the season by any means, but Patterson will probably feel that he still has levels left to reach in the coming weeks and months. Two clean sheets in his last two Championship outings would suggest that he is certainly on the right track.
Trai Hume - 7
Hume has bounced back from a red card in the season opener against Ipswich Town to put in a number of high quality performances at right-back. His assist for Jack Clarke’s header against Southampton at the Stadium of light was a particular highlight, but the standard as otherwise been pleasingly high too.
Dennis Cirkin - 6
Dependable and improving all the time, Cirkin continues to thrive under Tony Mowbray. Like Hume, he has one assist in his first five Championship outings this term, but don’t be surprised to see his goal contribution tally steadily rise as the season goes on.
Luke O’Nien - 7
When O’Nien is good, he is very very good, but there have been occasions this season when it has felt as if he needs to up the ante a little bit - especially when it comes to his distribution from the back. Still, a fine asset to Mowbray’s squad, and he gets bonus points for giving CPR to a dog at the beach a couple of weeks back.
Dan Ballard - 7
Sunderland are a better team when Dan Ballard is in the side - it really is that simple. The Northern Ireland international is a towering presence who reads the game well, and isn’t afraid to hurl himself into a tackle when required. Here’s hoping he can stay fit for the duration of the campaign.
Niall Huggins - 5
Huggins has barely had a look in so far, and as such, it would be wrong to judge him too harshly. Now that he is free from injury, here’s hoping he can steadily grow into his role in the North East.
Pierre Ekwah - 9
If Ekwah ever leaves Sunderland, I think I will cry real, inconsolable tears. The midfielder has been dominant in the centre of the park so far this term, and after breaking his senior duck against Southampton, the prospect of him adding goals to his game could make him one of the most ferocious presences in the entire division.
Dan Neil - 8
Often scapegoated by some supporters, the reality is that Neil is one of the Black Cats’ most consistent and accomplished performers. A level head who possesses a maturity that belies his relative youth. Surely a future club captain, provided he sticks around that long.
Bradley Dack - 6
Bit of an odd one this; Mowbray has shown an awful lot of faith in Dack since his arrival over the summer, and there have been fleeting moments in which he has shown glimpses of what he is capable of. At other times, however, he has struggled to hit his stride - although you do suspect that may be in part due to the fact that he has been forced to play out of position as a lone striker more often than not.
Jobe Bellingham - 9
It is incredibly easy to forget that Jobe, as he likes to be known, is only 17 years old. Slotting straight into Mowbray’s plans, the starlet has already proven himself to be a talent capable of single-handedly winning matches, and it is no coincidence that he was awarded the Black Cats’ Player of the Month accolade for August. A young man with a massive future ahead of him.
Chris Rigg - 6
Speaking of which... Rigg has only played eight minutes of Championship football this season, and as such it would be a little disingenuous to award him anything higher than a 6, but there is no doubting that the academy graduate is a special, special prospect. Still only 16, he followed a first senior goal in the Carabao Cup with a first league goal in the dying embers against Southampton last time out. Sunderland have a real talent on their hands.
Abdoulah Ba - 6
After a run of pretty underwhelming turns, Ba really flipped a switch against Southampton, and was instrumental in tearing the Saints limb from limb. Undoubtedly there is a hugely exciting player in there somewhere, but his decision-making and consistency still require some work at this stage.
Jewison Bennette - 6
Like Rigg, Bennette has only played eight minutes of Championship football this term, and, like Rigg, he made quite the impact in that brief cameo. Three Maradona spins in a row, Jewi? That’s insane.
Alex Pritchard - 6
Starved of proper opportunities, Pritchard has looked okay enough when he has been called upon. Now that the transfer window is shut and it is clear that his future lies in the North East (for the time being, at least) here’s hoping that he is given a decent chance to showcase his worth.
Jack Clarke - 9
Arguably Sunderland’s best player on his day, Clarke has once again been a shining light for the Black Cats in the early stages of the new campaign. With two goals already to his name, the winger looks as if he is set for another productive season on Wearside, and his constant trickery and directness must make him a headache for full-backs across the division.
Patrick Roberts - 8
Nobody in Sunderland’s squad has completed more successful dribbles or made more key passes than Roberts this season, but upon his return from injury after the international break, the winger will be hoping to add more direct goal contributions to his game as well. Speculation surrounding his contract situation continues to rumble away in the background, and the sooner that particular predicament is solved, the better for everybody.
Luis Semedo - 4
It’s not been an easy start to life in England for the young striker, but there have been some brief flashes of promise, and the hope will be that he can grow into a real goal threat as the weeks and months tick by.