Roker Report's Player Of The Month: Ki Sung-Yueng

Nigel Roddis

What with a month passing since the last one, we've anointed a new Player Of The Month, and it's on-loan midfielder Ki Sung-Yeung. Come read more, and see how everyone else fared this month...

Yes, it's that time again where we look at our own match ratings, average them out and determine a Player Of The Month.

The victor this month is on-loan midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng, who blew away the competition with a comfortable lead at the top, having been pretty damn magnificent since his instalment in the side by Gus Poyet.

The Korean has been superb for us in a holding midfield role, proving that the position isn't all about merely winning possession and passing it on. In fact it seems as though (not stat-checked) that Ki rarely wins the ball, but what he does with it once in possession has been nothing sort of superb.

Here's what some other folk who write for us had to say, but before we do, a quick reminder that our 'months' are months since the beginning of the season, rather than calendar months;

Michael Graham: I could sit here and wax-lyrical about Ki, analysing him from a technical point of view and telling everyone what they already know, but it's not really important. All it really boils down to is this: Ki Sung-Yueng is a footballer I really enjoy watching. It's not often we've been able to say that about Sunderland players in recent years.

Nick Holden: After watching the Sunderland games against Southampton and then Manchester City this month it's hard to doubt that Ki will be our key player this season.

After a few games where Poyet looked to settle in with a more pragmatic approach than had possibly been anticipated, the more recent fixtures have shown the Uruguayan implementing the patient possession-based game that brought him to Ellis Short's attention at Brighton.

The South Korean midfielder has been absolutely vital to this new style, sitting deep between the defence and midfield aiming to collect the ball from the centre backs and set up Sunderland to keep control of the ball. He's also played an important role as the "reset button" - always available for the ball to be played back to restart a move when the avenues ahead are closed.

Overall, Ki is a worthwhile winner this month, and if Poyet's philosophy is successfully adopted on Wearside then I imagine it won't be the last time he wins it this season.

Craig Clark: It's no surprise that our player of the month is the man central to the change in playing style under Poyet. Ki came into the side against Southampton and was the man charged with picking the ball up from deep and knitting the play together. He's continued in the same vein since, playing a huge role in the victory over Manchester City and helping to dictate play for significant periods against Stoke, even when the Lads were down to ten men. Going forward, if Poyet continues to use this system and there's every reason to think he will, then he is going to become arguably the most important player in the team. His encouraging start gives us something to be optimistic about.

Stephen Goldsmith: We've labelled Ki's role the "Liam Bridcutt" role on the podcast. But joking aside, we were told how imperative Poyet's deep lying midfielder would be to him in executing his philosophies onto the pitch. How many people are you comfortable with carrying out the duties that the South Korean has taken to like a duck to water? It's no coincidence that the home wins against Southampton and Man City looked almost faultless at times, such was the efficiency of Ki's performances. This, along with Wes Brown's influence, has glued the side together. I'm not sure Poyet would have diverted away from the pragmatic 442 we witnessed in the derby had Ki not adapted to this role with relative ease. Furthermore, the midfielders around him seem to absorb some of the confidence he pours out and that could be priceless if we are to have any chance of climbing the table.

David Boyle: I'd hazard a guess that few would have expect Ki to have such an impact on the side following his loan move from Swansea, however since the arrival of Gus Poyet the South Korean looks easily the most comfortable in the new manager's system and indeed at times it would appear as if the tactic was designed around Ki's vision and ability on the ball.

Ki has been a joy to watch at times, looking to quickly spread the play and keep possession moving into areas with more space with ease. His confidence also appears to be rubbing off on the likes of Colback and Larsson, with the Swede especially actually looking something like a central midfielder when supported by Ki, something I had long since given up on.

Should Ki keep this kind of form up he could well find himself high on Poyet's shopping list come the summer.

Chris Weatherspoon: Put rather simply (and not at all cliched), Ki is key to Sunderland's fortunes. His role is one that many struggle to reconcile praise with; the simplicity of merely offering an option to teammates and finding someone with a short-range pass pales in comparison to the wonder-strikes and crunching challenges many prefer to see.

Yet, it is this calming simplicity that has been pivotal to Sunderland's improved performances in the past month. Ki's willingness to find space and receive the ball to feet negates the necessity for the previous 'hit and hope' tactics that were in abundance under prior regimes. In addition, contrary to what some may think, he has offered qualities in an attacking sense too. Against Newcastle, it was he who first moved the ball forward in the move that led to Fabio Borini's winning goal; against Manchester City, he was not merely a defensive shield but also looked to get shots away when the opportunity arose; at Stoke last weekend, it was he who teed up Adam Johnson for Sunderland's best chance of the second half.

And if you want to see how the whole squad of players stacked up this month, look no further...

Player Name
Average Score
(Month)
Difference From
Previous Month
Season Total
Ki Sung-Yueng 7.5 +0.75 62
John O'Shea 6.8 +2.2 80
Wes Brown 6.75 +6.75 27
Vito Mannone 6.5 +6.5 29
Jack Colback 6.2 +1.2 85
Ondrej Celustka 6.0 +1.0 76
Keiren Westwood 6.0 +0.8 63
Valentin Roberge 6.0 +0.33 39
Steven Fletcher 5.8 +0.3 52
Phil Bardsley 5.8 +87.8 -53
Adam Johnson 5.6 +1.8 87
Seb Larsson 5.6 +0.85 71
Lee Cattermole 5.5 -1.7 47
Jozy Altidore 5.4 -0.2 53
Emanuele Giaccherini 5.33 -1.07 67
Craig Gardner 5.0 -0.6 50
Fabio Borini 5.0 +0.34 39
Carlos Cuellar 4.5 -1.0 20
Andrea Dossena 3.5 +3.5 7

By in large numbers are up across the board, which is of course excellent to see. The only really fallible area of it being that in opinion, Brown should probably be higher than O'Shea, but with the Irishman running quite level with his defensive partner, the sending off at Stoke and the extra game this month have proved pivotal.

Adam Johnson and Phil Bardsley also make significant improvements on last month, but still well below their best.

More of the same next month...

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