Time for us to present our first player of the month for the season, and to be honest given the start to the season we've had this is a little bit of a crap-shoot, which is why the way we decide the player of the month comes in quite handy.
Rather than picking someone willy-nilly, we use our ratings to decide it for us. As you probably know, straight after the final whistle each week we offer up our player ratings -- some instant analysis of what we just witnessed, and score each player out of ten.
We then record these, and divide the total score for each player over the amount of games they played during the time period. It's far from foolproof, but we think it's a pretty fair reflection of how each player performed during their time on the pitch.
So these months winner after we got the calculator out was winger Adam Johnson.
Johnson's magical performance against MK Dons and a pretty good day against Arsenal seemed to just push him over the top of loanee Ondrej Celustka and fellow newbie Emanuele Giaccherini.
Here's what (some of) our writing staff made of this month's performances;
Michael Graham: If there has ever been a player for Sunderland more burdened with unfair levels of expectation than Adam Johnson, I don't think I have seen him. The returning homegrown hero, wearing the red and white after joining from the Champions image is a tough one to live up to. It may be impossible. But Johnson is creating chances and influencing games. Realistically, that is all we can ask of him. Well deserved.
Karl Jones: It hasn't been the most fruitful of months to pick from, but Adam Johnson remains at the forefront of Sunderland creativity - even if more is expected of him from some parts. Against Arsenal at the weekend, he created the same number of chances at Mesut Ozil and, in fact, there has not been a game so far this season where a team-mate has created more chances than Johnson. Considering our stuttering start, that may not read all too well, but he's certainly doing his bit.
Nick Holden: With our two outstanding players of last season, Simon Mignolet and Danny Rose, departed from the club it was time for another player to step forward and be counted, and it appears that Adam Johnson is that man. AJ mk.II has looked an entirely different player under Paolo Di Canio. He showed glimpses of this in his performances at the end of last season (memorably with a classic Adam Johnson cut inside and shoot for the top corner goal in that game), but this season he's looked even better.
The winger appears to be fitter and completely committed to Paolo Di Canio's new displinarian regime, a great example of this commitment is his last-minute goal against MK Dons in the League Cup. Under Martin O'Neill last season Johnson would not have even been fit enough to be on the pitch in injury time, never mind able to make a lung-busting sprint down the touchline before executing a beautiful finish from an almost impossible angle.
The change in Johnson under Di Canio has been remarkable, and he looks set to be one of our key players under the Italian's focus on quick attacking football. Long may this form continue!
Andy Tomlinson: We haven't been spoiled for choice this month but it's hard to argue with Adam Johnson winning the award. He has benefited more than most from Paolo Di Canio's reign, with committed displays and noticeable improvements in his fitness and work-rate. His improvements from the end of last season have continued into this campaign and with Sessegnon failing to make an impact before departing for West Brom and Giaccherini still adapting to a new league and searching for full fitness, Johnson has taken on the extra attacking pressure on his shoulders admirably.
It's notable that the full back behind Johnson, Celustka, came second in the rankings for August. Those two striking up a partnership could see Johnson's influence increase even more as the season progresses.
Stephen Goldsmith: I think Celustka may have been my personal choice but AJ is clearly worthy of the award in a campaign where nobody has set the pulse racing too much. He gets a lot of stick, Johnson, and a lot of it is unwarranted. He spent last season receiving the ball at half way and was expected to take on the opposition in its entirety, and this season he and the other front players have suffered the most from the lack of any significant central midfield pairing. He hasn't hid though and has offered as much as anyone thus far. He'll get there and the improvement in both his delivery and his work ethic is notable.
Craig Clark: I was initially quite surprised to see Adam Johnson come out on top here but when you look down the competition and consider just how unimpressive the start to the season has been, he has been as good as it gets for Sunderland thus far. Alongside strikingly impressive performances against Arsenal and MK Dons he has been his usual inconsistent self, but has at least created a series of goalscoring chances. There has been quality and variety to his delivery, with an encouraging mixture of pin point long balls from deep, crosses with both feet and through balls in behind defences. Generally, he looks a far better player this season and there are signs he will become the player we all hoped he would be when he arrived in 2012.
David Boyle: In what has been an uninspiring start to the season I was quite surprised to see any of Di Canio's men manage an average of 7.0 from our match ratings and if anything I have been more impressed with the man behind Adam Johnson, both on the field and in our table, Ondrej Celustka. However that should not take anything away from our former England International who has had the weight of expectation upon his shoulders since his arrival on Wearside and I am delighted to see him finally reach some level of consistency and begin to come close to matching the potential we expected following his signing.
Indeed it is quite encouraging in some respects that our right flank make up the top two positions in the table and hopefully indicates an understanding being garnered between Johnson and Celustka. We're some way off Summerbee and Makin, but its a start.
Chris Weatherspoon: In truth, this month's award is difficult for me to comment on, given that I've missed three out of our five games thus far. In the two games I have seen, however - against MK Dons and Arsenal - it's pretty safe to say that Adam Johnson has been the standout performer. In amongst a demoralising mix of shaky defending and sloppy passing, Johnson has been lively and adventurous, seeking to take men on as frequently as we had expected when we signed him a year ago, and carving out a number of good chances. Reports and highlights from our other games suggest he has been his inconsistent self overall - as many wingers are. But, in a month with little to shout about, Adam Johnson has offered some rare glimmers of hope. Let's hope it continues, and a few others decide to join him.
And here's the full table of results for the month;
|Player Name||Average Score
So as you can see, pretty poor across the board from everyone. Good to see Celustka up there, as he has done very well so far along with fellow new arrivals in Giaccherini and Altidore making up three of the top four. Room for improvement however for many of our existing defenders and midfielders though.