How Have We Fared?
January has been a fairly decent month for us, all things considered.
The Aston Villa home game was one that we crucially needed to win, and we did so convincingly, with two goals from Jermain Defoe and a deflected Patrick Van Aanholt effort ensuring all three points went our way.
With another huge game on the horizon against Swansea, Big Sam elected to de-prioritise the FA Cup third round tie away to Arsenal. Despite playing fairly well and taking the lead through a great Jeremain Lens strike, a late capitulation following the substitution of a number of key players meant that Arsenal were the side that made it through to the next round, winning the game at the Emirates 3-1.
By the time the Swansea City away game came around it was clear that losing just was not an option, and with the help of the officials we won the game 4-2 - another three goals from Jermain Defoe and yet another deflected Patrick Van Aanholt strike sealed the victory to drag Big Sam's men another three points closer to safety.
Despite taking an early lead away to Tottenham Hotspur via yet another Patrick Van Aanholt inspired goal, Sunderland quickly capitulated and it was a debut to forget for new signing Jan Kirchhoff, who arguably was at fault for two of the Spurs goals that cost us the points.
At the weekend fellow bottom-half side Bournemouth came into town, and despite going behind early on it was that man Patrick Van Aanholt on hand again to score in the fourth game running (well, he's had the first two chalked off as they deflected in off an opposition player but I'm letting him have them) to earn Sunderland's first draw since Sam Allardyce arrived at the club.
All in all, a decent month. We took seven points out of a possible twelve from the four league games we played and, although it would have been nice to get a decent run in the cup, it was never going to be easy to defeat the reigning FA Cup holders on their home turf.
Who Were The Readers Picks?
After each game we post a player ratings article and at the end we ask our readers to vote on who they think the man of the match was.
Having scored two goals it was Jermain Defoe who took the plaudits in the Aston Villa game, earning 462 votes - a 54% share overall.
Jordan Pickford finally made his first team debut away to Arsenal and, despite conceding three goals, he put in a thoroughly brilliant performance to show both the fans and the manager that he's good enough to be playing regularly at the top level, taking a 43% overall share with 196 individual votes from the Roker Report readers.
Having been rested for the Arsenal game Jermain Defoe added to the two goals he scored in the previous league game against Villa with a hattrick against Alan Curtis' Swansea, and it was enough to see him take home the reader's pick for man of the match, collecting 484 votes and a 62% overall share in the process.
Jordan Pickford was handed his first Premier League start against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane and was excellent - the scoreline of 4-1 was kind on Sunderland and had Jordan Pickford not played as well as he did we may well have been on the receiving end of a far worse punishment. 63% of our readers voted Pickford as man of the match.
Patrick Van Aanholt has been in a sensational run of goalscoring form and yet another goal at the weekend against Bournemouth saw him take 58% of the votes (225), which earned him the man of the match from our readers to go with the point his goal achieved for the football club.
Who Has Had A Bad Month?
At the bottom end of the scale Jan Kirchhoff, whose solitary appearance off the bench away to Spurs saw him earn a score of 1. It's difficult to argue against that really, considering just how bad he was. Let's hope that he kicks on from here.
Elsewhere it's been a bad month for big money buys Jack Rodwell and Fabio Borini, who both have struggled to make any impact across the games they've played in since the month began and earned an average score of 4.3. Borini scored two goals in December but since has gone off the boil, and failed to impress on Saturday before being substituted in place of Duncan Watmore.
Jack Rodwell's three appearances this month have all been from the bench, and it's clear that he struggles to make any sort of an impact when coming on later in the game. Perhaps it's something for Sam Allardyce to consider going forward.
It's not been a great month for Danny Graham either - before leaving on a loan deal to Championship side Blackburn he was afforded plenty of playing time but just didn't seem to be involved in anything particularly meaningful, thus earning a pitiful score of 4.5 across the four appearances he made over the course of January. It's no surprise that Big Sam has elected to send him out on loan until his contract here has effectively ran its course.
Who Has Had A Good Month?
Patrick Van Aanholt may have seen two of the four strikes he's scored chalked off as 'own goals' but his overall contribution has been duly noted by the Sunderland fans. His ability going forward is a tremendous asset to our side and if he could only iron out the issues with his defensive ability we'd have a real player on our hands. Having played in all five games last month he earned a very decent score of 7.2, seeing him finish in third place.
Even though Jermain Defoe has been quiet in front of goal in the last two games his five goals in the games against Aston Villa and Swansea City earned us six crucial points and we could look back at the end of the season and January and the contribution of Defoe as a deciding factor in our survival - touch wood. His score of 7.25 puts him just ahead of Patrick Van Aanholt in second place.
Roker Report Player Of The Month - Jordan Pickford - 7.5
What a month it has been for Jordan Pickford. Having been recalled early from his successful loan spell at Championship side Preston he has started two games for Sunderland, earning our reader's 'man of the match' award in both.
Infact, the club have such faith in him that rather than sending Jordan back out on loan they have elected to hang on to him, sell our former number one Costel Pantillimon AND give him a brand spanking new contract which will see him stay at the club until at least 2020. Well done young man.