In the first week of January, with the transfer window open it was Josh Maja who once again showcased just how valuable he is to Sunderland.
The highly sought-after 20-year-old secured another four points for the Black Cats, with two crucial goals against Shrewsbury and Blackpool.
He scored the only goal at Bloomfield Road and a crucial leveller when Sunderland were trailing at home to Shrewsbury - all in a week where speculation about his future has really ramped up.
Without Maja’s goals during the most exhausting part of the season, Sunderland’s title challenge could have faltered. In part due to his goals, the Mackems picked up 7 out of a possible 12 points over the festive period.
Until the transfer window shuts Maja will dominate the news cycle on Wearside, but the man many expected to be Sunderland’s talisman this year, Charlie Wyke, is finally contributing. The lethal League One marksman played a vital role in our win at Blackpool and appeared to have instant chemistry with Maja, freeing up the in-form striker who suits playing off a target man.
His Blackpool performance combined with an effective cameo against Shrewsbury sees the former Bradford man reach his highest ever ranking at sixth.
Also, we have some housekeeping - Max Stryjek and Luke Molyneux’s loan spells have ended at Eastleigh and Gateshead respectively so they re-enter our Power Rankings. Stryjek kept five clean sheets for Eastleigh in 11 starts, whilst Molyneux scored three and assisted five goals for Gateshead.
1: Josh Maja (5) - Maja starts a potentially career-changing month by topping our Power Rankings chart for a third time.
2: Aiden McGeady (SR) - Second again after providing another assist in the win over Blackpool. As other Sunderland attackers continue to struggle, McGeady remains a threatening outlet.
3: Luke O’Nien (1) - His ability to compete admirably as an out-of-position right-back earns him his second straight week inside our top three.
4: Jack Baldwin (3) - Bar the odd lapse of concentration, Baldwin has continued to be Sunderland’s best defender over the festive period, keeping him in our top five.
5: Max Power (4) -The Cattermole-Power midfield partnership never quite clicked over Christmas, but Power continues to play an important all-round role for the team.
6: Charlie Wyke (17) - In the top ten for the first-team since getting injured at Burton Albion, Wyke’s health and performances will be crucial to Sunderland’s second-half of the season.
7: Lee Cattermole (6) - Still yet to recapture his early season form after a back injury, Cattermole came closer to looking like his old-self in Blackpool, but will miss our next two fixtures after picking up his tenth booking.
8: Lynden Gooch (7) - Another player in a slump, the American did just enough against Blackpool to maintain his top ten spot, it’s unclear whether Gooch will remain an automatic starter once everyone is fit.
9: Reece James (SR) - Maintains his spot in the top ten after reclaiming his place in the starting line-up and helping the team to a much-needed clean sheet at Bloomfield Road.
10: Bryan Oviedo (11) - Given the nod ahead of James for the Shrewsbury match, Oviedo laid on Maja’s equaliser, but his questionable defending and unavailability for Blackpool stops the Costa Rican rising higher up our ranks.
11: Jon McLaughlin (15) - Still not quite convincing after a couple poor performances, McLaughlin rises slightly after a clean sheet and decent late stop in the Shrewsbury match with a couple caveats - the 31-year-old needed an excellent Baldwin clearance to bail him out at Bloomfield Road and was out of position for Shrewsbury’s opener.
12: George Honeyman (8) - Drops out the top ten after missing both games this week through injury, likely to drop further with Jack Ross confirming he is unavailable for the Charlton clash.
13: Tom Flanagan (10) - Slips further after continuing to look uncomfortable since returning from injury. Like McLaughlin he was fortunate Baldwin spared his blushes late on at Bloomfield Road.
14: Duncan Watmore (12) - Falls for the first time since returning from injury, Watmore just didn’t play enough to defend his spot.
15: Adam Matthews (13) - Another absentee who continues to fall down our chart due to inactivity.
16: Chris Maguire (14) - His substandard form continues - he was ineffective against Shrewsbury and barely featured at Blackpool.
17: Dylan McGeouch (16) - Looks set for a larger role next due to Cattermole’s suspension. With our former captain out, McGeouch won’t get a better chance all season to establish himself as a starter.
18: Bali Mumba (SR) - Made the matchday squad against Blackpool, but didn’t feature. The teenage midfielder might get an opportunity at the Valley with Cattermole and Honeyman missing out.
19: Jerome Sinclair (SR) - An unused sub in the last three Sunderland matches, lack of form coupled with the return of Watmore and Wyke has Sinclair on the brink of falling out of the top ten.
20: Glenn Loovens (SR) - Out through injury and suspension, a lack of opportunities for fringe Sunderland players keeps Loovens in the top 20.
21: Alim Ozturk 22: Robbin Ruiter 23: Denver Hume 24: Benji Kimpioka 25: Jack Bainbridge 26: Ethan Robson 27: Donald Love 28: Luke Molyneux 29: Jack Diamond 30: Jake Hackett 31: Lee Connelly 32: Brandon Taylor 33: Jordan Hunter 34: Daniel Neil 35: Max Stryjek.