Whisper it quietly, but Sunderland didn’t play particularly great in Saturday’s 2-0 victory away at Shrewsbury Town. Winning cures all, and the Black Cats were better after Jack Ross changed the team’s system to introduce Lynden Gooch and George Honeyman after half-time, but the indifferent performance means that it was more difficult than usual to settle on this week’s Power Rankings.
Figuring where to place super-subs who barely played, or how much to punish dodgy defensive performances when your team escapes with a clean-sheet is really difficult.
In the absence of a truly outstanding performance, Tom Flanagan finds himself top of our charts. The lanky defender has looked an assured presence and exciting versatile option among our backline since returning from injury, and outside of a couple memorable gaffes against Coventry City, he has been a reliable performer.
On Saturday he did all the little things well: making the simple pass, breaking up play when possible and he generally got himself into the right place at the right time. When several of his teammates under-performed, that’s enough to launch the former Burton Albion man to the top of our totem pole.
Jerome Sinclair rises to second place - he was a real nuisance against the Shrews, stretching their back four, whilst creating the few decent half-chances Sunderland enjoyed in the first half. The 22-year-old could be rewarded with his first start as Sunderland’s lone striker against Doncaster Rovers.
The major fallers are: Josh Maja, Jack Baldwin and Chris Maguire. The trio of former Power Rankings champions all struggled on Saturday for various different reasons and must be sharper against Doncaster Rovers. It’s the first time this season none of the three early frontrunners for Player of the Season have featured in our top five.
Finally, we welcome Jack Diamond and Lee Connelly into our rankings - the academy products came on in the Checkatrade Trophy for their first ever appearances in senior football.
1: Tom Flanagan (7) - Following a match where several of Sunderland’s star players under-performed, it is fitting to see one of the club’s most consistent players become this week’s champion.
2: Jerome Sinclair (5) - A great aspect of compiling weekly rankings is it can help shine a light on underappreciated members of Ross’ squad, including this man. Sinclair has looked like a dynamic exciting option in our attack since Ross has played him in his preferred role through the middle.
3: Lynden Gooch (10) - Two assists in 36 minutes nearly saw Gooch top our charts for the second time this season. Ultimately, he has to settle for third after missing our previous three matches through injury.
4: George Honeyman (12) - Our captain has been under the microscope and discussed ad nauseam since being benched at Bradford. He’s responded superbly, against Shrewsbury he was crucial to Sunderland’s second half improvement and he scored in the EFL Cup against Carlisle United too.
5: Jon McLaughlin (2) - Unlucky to drop three spots, but he just didn’t have much to do. As always McLaughlin did the basics well in an assured manner.
6: Lee Cattermole (4) - Produced the kind of forgettable six out of ten performance Roker Report get accused of awarding Honeyman even when our home-grown captain performs poorly. It’s Cattermole, so obviously a pointless yellow card was thrown into an otherwise mundane showing for good measure.
7: Reece James (13) - Starting to emerge as one of our most consistent players. Lacks the dynamic dribbling of Denver Hume and Brian Oviedo, but James rarely puts a foot wrong and his no thrills performance in Shropshire was perfect for a tough away fixture.
8: Chris Maguire (1) - Off-days like the one Maguire had against Shrewsbury are always going to happen with such a mercurial talent. Nothing he tried came off and he couldn’t escape Omar Beckles’ pocket.
9: Josh Maja (3) - The North East press pack were quick to point to an ankle injury when explaining Maja’s listless performance against Shrewsbury. He surrendered possession far too meekly and lacked his usual sharpness in front of goal. Maybe the teenager could benefit from time on the sidelines to fully recover from his ankle problem.
10: Jack Baldwin (6) - The lowest our defensive stalwart has fallen since joining the club. He was just off in every aspect of his game against Town, with his passing especially erroneous.
11: Adam Matthews (9) - One of many who was just a yard off the pace in our most recent league fixture. A real shame as the Welsh international finally looked to be finding his feet in League One.
12: Aiden McGeady (8) - With the exception of Sinclair any of Sunderland’s attackers could have been replaced at New Meadow when the score was level, ultimately it was McGeady who was hooked and the team played much better in his absence.
13: Dylan McGeouch (14) - After impressing in the Checkatrade Trophy, he faltered again in league action. His passing was conservative and unspectacular and he lacks the athleticism to stay in front of midfielders. Luckily for McGeouch, Max Power is still unavailable through suspension.
14: Luke O’Nien (22) - The greatest highlight at Shrewsbury was seeing O’Nien bag his first goal in Sunderland colours. His expert finish secured a massive victory for Sunderland which keeps us on track in our promotion hunt.
15: Denver Hume (11) - Still unavailable through injury, Hume faces an uncertain return given James’ recent form.
16: Glenn Loovens (15) - Another player who remains on the injured list, and who may struggle to reclaim a starting place.
17: Alim Ozturk (16) - Played in our reasonably comfortable Checkatrade Trophy victory over Carlisle United; the Turkish centre-half remains unlikely to break the Flanagan-Baldwin partnership in defence.
18: Robbin Ruiter (18) - Had another stellar game in goal in the Checkatrade Trophy, conceding only once in an open game where neither team did much defending.
19: Benji Kimpioka (19) - Scored his first ever goal for the club against Carlisle. The teenager could feature in the Black Cats’ upcoming matches given Maja’s fitness concerns.
20: Charlie Wyke (17) - With Maguire and Maja struggling, Saturday’s fixture was arguably the game we’ve most missed our injured summer signing.
21: Ethan Robson (21) - Scored a wonderful goal in the EFL Cup - Robson was so unfortunate to get injured soon after, ending his hopes of a league start against Shrewsbury.
22: Bali Mumba 23: Donald Love 24: Jack Diamond 25: Lee Connelly 26: Brian Oviedo 27: Max Power 28: Duncan Watmore.