Ndong Keeps Improving
I've tried all season to give Didier Ndong the benefit of the doubt when it felt like many others weren't prepared to do so, so you can imagine it gave me great pleasure watching him run the show against Crystal Palace at the weekend.
His last three performances - on Saturday, and then against Spurs and Liverpool - have all been very good, and he's finally starting to settle in and assert himself.
Ndong's ball-winning ability and work-rate is second to none and now that he's shown that he has goals in his locker, people are starting to see what he is truly capable of - the task now is for him to keep that level of performance up, especially at the weekend when we come up against a Southampton midfield that has plenty of class players in it. The battle between Ndong and Oriol Romeu should be an entertaining one.
Perhaps what we've seen from Didier in his last three games should be a lesson to us all. He's a very young man who arrived here in a new league, speaking a new language, in new surroundings, and didn't instantly set the world alight because he wasn't yet settled in - we need to give our younger players the time to get fully accustomed before they can truly show us what they are capable of.
Clinical Defoe Is One Of A Kind
Jermain Defoe is the single greatest goalscorer that I have ever seen in a Sunderland shirt in my lifetime. I don't even feel bad for saying it - he's just that good.
The rate that he is able to turn half-chances in to actual goals is astonishing - it wasn't as though the two that he bagged at the weekend were simple finishes. He scored them both with his 'weaker' left foot!
And he's not just a great goalscorer - he's a top bloke. His words after the game when speaking to BBC Match of the Day were immensely pleasing to hear - he's loving scoring goals and playing for a club and a fan-base that appreciate him.
I wouldn't have blamed him for wanting to leave us in January when it was public knowledge that there was interest from other better-positioned clubs - I'm just so glad that he didn't, and that we've got him until the summer at least.
Organised & Efficient
Finally, something resembling a system and a plan! It has only taken us until February to decide upon one that suits us.
Ok, maybe that is a tad harsh - clearly, the loss of players like Lamine Kone, Victor Anichebe and Didier Ndong in January deeply effected us. Now that two of those players are back, though, we seem to have found a way of playing that gets the best out of the players that we have.
Both at the weekend and against Spurs we made ourselves tough to break down and the result has been two clean sheets. Having a solid base was what kept us up last season and we'll need that to be the same if we are to survive this time around - I guess that is stating the obvious, but it's really that simple. We've got the attacking players that are capable of winning us games, but we just need to ensure that we fix our leaky back-line.
Having said that, it should surprise nobody that the sudden upturn in our defensive performances coincides with the loss of Patrick van Aanholt and Papy Djilobodji in recent weeks.
I cannot end this week's Quick Kicks without mentioning the performance of the debuting Bryan Oviedo at left back - what a way to start your Sunderland career.
Wilfried Zaha is the linchpin of Crystal Palace's side and it was vitally important that whoever he was up against had a good game if we were going to stand a chance of shutting off our opposition's supply line. Luckily for us, Oviedo was more than a match for the Ivorian winger and gave him a torrid time throughout - in the end, Palace just stopped attacking our left hand side because each time that they did resulted in them getting nothing.
It was fitting that Oviedo's debut came against a team featuring the man that he has replaced at Sunderland, Patrick van Aanholt - I'll leave it to you guys to decide which of them put in the type of performance you'd expect from someone that just cost their club fourteen million quid.