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Based on our player ratings, this is Sunderland’s strongest starting XI... apparently!

Using the Roker Report player ratings, Molly Burke has made a claim for her statistically strongest starting XI - do you agree?

Sunderland v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Since Simon Grayson was handed the difficult job of managing Sunderland, his team selections and tactics were often criticised. He made multiple controversial decisions, such as picking Steele over Ruiter, and refusing to drop Lee Cattermole earlier than he did.

However, now that Grayson has departed, it’s time to separate the wheat from the chaff. Using Roker Report's player ratings from the season thus far I have put together a line-up that has theoretically performed the best this season - but is this our best starting XI?

Brentford v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
Grayson’s gone, but should this have been the team he opted for?
Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

GK - Robbin Ruiter 5.8/10

Robbin Ruiter is one of two particularly underwhelming goalkeepers we signed in the summer, but with former Blackburn man Jason Steele claiming an average rating of 4/10, Ruiter appears to be the best of a bad bunch.

Ruiter made the switch from Holland to Sunderland after an extremely impressive trial with the club, with stand out performances in pre-season friendlies against Bradford City and Scunthorpe United helping him secure a contract with the club.

He looked to be a brilliant replacement for Jordan Pickford initially, but in recent weeks he’s struggled to maintain his early season form - an issue certainly not aided with such a poor defence in front of him.

While he appears rather nervy in between the sticks, he isn't half as bad as Steele and deserves his place ahead of the 27-year-old.

FC Utrecht v Ajax Amsterdam - Dutch Eredivisie
Ruiter the best of a bad bunch?
Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

RB - Adam Matthews 5/10

I wouldn't say Adam Matthews deserves to play Championship football week in week out, but Billy Jones is just that bad. With an average rating of 4.5/10 Jones has continued to worsen - even after dropping down a division.

Simon Grayson handed the 30-year-old numerous chances to impress, but Jones has simply failed to prove his worth. Hopefully the next manager won't be quite so kind.

However, there is nothing even remotely exciting about the thought of Matthews taking Jones' place, suggesting that a new right back needs to be added to our shopping list... despite the fact we have three on our books.

CB - Tyias Browning 5.8/10

Given Browning played on the right side of defence while at Everton, he has provided us with versatility and more solidity when asked to operate in a central role. While he may have made mistakes - such as handing Nottingham Forest a last minute winner - I do believe Browning has impressed more than he has disappointed.

Once the loanee returns from injury I fully expect him cement his place in the starting line-up ahead of the likes of Kone and Wilson - both of whom have failed to impress whatsoever.

CB - John O'Shea 5.30/10

John O'Shea's age occasionally proves a barrier for the defender; however his leadership and experience can prove vital in areas where others struggle.

O'Shea has his moments, but has proved himself to be much more reliable than Kone while Marc Wilson seems to have struggled to settle in to his new life on Wearside. Despite getting on a bit, it’s clear to see that O'Shea is the best man for the job right now.

LB - Bryan Oviedo 5.8/10

Brendan Galloway - with an average rating of 4.6/10 - will be very lucky to start again for Sunderland after enduring a shocking start to the season. Upon Ovideo’s return to full fitness, the Everton defender was deservedly dropped and hasn’t really had a look in since.

Oviedo, however, has definitely shown his qualities since returning to the side. Providing solidity on the right as well as having the ability to attack too - with a sublime assist against Brentford, as well as a lucky corner that resulted in a goal - Oviedo is one of our better performers.

Sunderland v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship
Will Browning return to the side upon finding full fitness?
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

CM - Dider Ndong 6.2/10

Didier Ndong has been one of the better performers during a painful three months in the Championship. That being said, the midfielder's main flaw is his inability to retain possession which occasionally puts us in a dangerous position. However, when it comes to defending Ndong is brilliant at creating a one-man wall in the middle of the park.

Despite our poor defensive record, the Gabonese international has made more successful tackles this season than any player from the top leagues across Europe which could see the club cash in on the tireless midfielder come the January transfer window.

While Ndong hasn't disappointed quite as badly as some of the others, he is going to have to learn to not lose the ball so much if he is to help us from avoiding consecutive relegations.

CM - Lee Cattermole 4.8/10

The fact that Cattermole is in this side which such a terribly low rating shows how badly we are in need of a decent defensive midfielder. While the ratings may suggest Catts should be in our starting XI, I disagree - and I imagine I'm not the only one.

Since the start of the season Cattermole has looked finished, if truth be told. He doesn't provide the same assurance that Ndong does and his sloppy passes often hand the opposition golden opportunities.

With Paddy McNair having recently returned from injury, I believe there is no harm in giving the Irishman a chance to partner Ndong once he is fully fit. Cattermole will need to dramatically improve his performances if he wants to find a place in this side moving forward.

CAM - Jonny Williams 6.5/10

When Jonny Williams arrived at the club in the summer he looked very promising and added the creative spark that we have been lacking.

While Williams is definitely still one of our better players, he doesn't quite carry as much excitement as he did when he first joined. Injuries haven’t helped and neither has the levels of support from those around him.

The Crystal Palace loanee is very positive and tries his best to push the team forward, but really needs to start creating the chances that could help push us up the table. A lot rests on the Welshman’s shoulders.

Sunderland v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

LW - Aiden McGeady 6.5/10

Aiden McGeady is easily the best player in our squad and at less than £1 million he was an absolute bargain.

The former Preston has been our best attacking threat since he signed, and with his four goals and three assists is perhaps one of the only reasons we have a genuine chance of turning our season around.

It's hard not to feel sorry for him and he deserves to be much higher up in the league, but I'm not complaining because without him we would be doomed.

RW - Duncan Watmore 6.3/10

Duncan Watmore has only just returned from a long-term injury in recent weeks, but his few appearances have impressed fans during a difficult period.

He didn't quite light up the Premier League, and it was clear he would be much more suited to the Championship. It might still be early days for the roadrunner, but he hasn't disappointed us yet this season.

He has caused defenders all sorts of trouble from the wing and has created plenty of chances, proving to be a thorn in the opposition's side. He could be vital for us moving forward.

ST - Lewis Grabban 6.4/10

Following a rather unsuccessful loan spell with Reading last season, there was a suggestion that Lewis Grabban was too lazy and wouldn't perform to the best of his ability once he made the switch to Sunderland.

However, with 7 goals in 11 appearances, I wouldn't say he has done incredibly well whilst part of such a lacklustre side.

With James Vaughan currently our only other recognised striker, Grabban is almost guaranteed a spot in the starting line-up. Once Josh Maja returns from injury I expect the Bournemouth loanee to be challenged, hopefully motivating him to do even better - a bit of competition up top is definitely what is needed.

Sunderland v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship
7 in 11 isn’t bad at all!
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

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