Death, taxes and Jon McLaughlin being top of the Roker Report Power Rankings.
It’s the fourth straight week at the top for Sunderland’s perennial man of the match winner and worryingly the distance between McLaughlin and our best outfield players is only growing wider.
Three outstanding stops in an all-round commanding performance put Sunderland in position to win at Oxford United. Sadly, McLaughlin was denied the opportunity to be on a winning team, as poor game-management and laughable defending left him exposed and helpless to stop Oxford equalising.
Following a timid, unimpressive performance where the Mackems were second-best in a drawing effort, it was hard to find players worthy of top three status. Aiden McGeady stays put at second for producing the best showing out of Sunderland’s four ineffective attackers.
Grant Leadbitter rises to third in his second week back at the club, and much like McGeady he was marginally better than his other outfield teammates on a day where only the goalkeeper could take real pride in his performance.
1: Jon McLaughlin (SR) - You have to go back to January 7th for the last week that started without McLaughlin sitting top of the Power Rankings - he’s just out-playing his teammates and covering for their mistake’s week in, week out.
2: Aiden McGeady (SR) - McGeady has played much better this season than he did on Saturday, but it’s hard to argue anyone below did enough to supersede him and claim the number two spot in our rankings.
3: Grant Leadbitter (6) - Within two games Leadbitter has already established himself as an important player for this Sunderland side; he’ll have to improve on his performance at Oxford if the Black Cats are to achieve promotion, but that’s true of everyone in the squad not named McLaughlin.
4: Lewis Morgan (5) - Up to fourth after another promising performance, but to maintain his place in our top five, the Celtic loanee will have to do more to make an impact in games Sunderland aren’t dominating.
5: Luke O’Nien (4) - Drops one place after making a less effective impact off the bench than Sunderland fans have become accustomed to.
6: George Honeyman (7) - One of several Sunderland players whose place and role in the team has come under scrutiny after another sub-par team performance, especially from an attacking perspective. However, he rises one spot due to the short-comings of other Black Cats.
7: Jimmy Dunne (11) - Dunne vaults up to seventh this week, but could have risen much higher after his first goal for the club if he hadn’t made such a catastrophic, game-changing error with time elapsing at the Kassam Stadium. (I know most times the referee blows-up and gives a free-kick in that scenario, but a strong, confident defender takes responsibility rather than diving to the floor hoping the referee will bail him out.)
8: Will Grigg (35) - Not the debut we were all hoping for from our new talisman, but the Northern Ireland international did show flashes of his class against Oxford, despite being starved for service. He debuts as an active player at #8 with the hope there’s much more to come from Grigg in a Sunderland shirt.
9: Reece James (3) - Even within a match where several Sunderland performers, didn’t play at a high enough level, James stood-out on Saturday as a player who was below par, he drops six slots after a disappointing showing.
10: Adam Matthews (8) - Much like the Wearsiders’ other full-back, the Welshman noticeably struggled against the Yellows. Although Matthews did have the toughest assignment of any Sunderland player up against Jordan Graham, we’ve come to expect more from the 27-year-old.
11: Max Power (9) - Power is under as much pressure as anyone in the Sunderland starting line-up to perform and raise his level. He slips further down our totem pole after failing to capitalise on another starting opportunity.
12: Lynden Gooch (16) - Rises back up our rankings after impressing the most out of Sunderland’s three substitutes, the American could offer real value as an impact sub going forward.
13: Duncan Watmore (10) - An unused sub at Oxford, Watmore drops three spots due to inactivity.
14: Dylan McGeouch (12) - Is McGeouch the answer to Sunderland’s midfield issues? Our inability to create chances and dominate matches? He missed out again versus Oxford and calls for his return to the starting line-up are only getting louder.
15: Jack Baldwin (13) - Returned to the starting line-up, but didn’t make the most of his opportunity, being wasteful in possession, we’ve dropped him further down our ranks.
16: Charlie Wyke (20) - Wyke failed to turn the momentum of the contest, or make a lasting impression at Oxford, but it was a marked improvement from his utterly hopeless display the week prior against AFC Wimbledon.
17: Chris Maguire (14) - Left out of the matchday 18, just like he initially was against Wimbledon, the Morgan and Grigg signings, plus Watmore’s return to fitness have shifted the 30-year-old out of contention.
18: Tom Flanagan (15) - Dropped for the Oxford game, due to a lack of training time after he was away to support his partner who gave birth. Buoyed by the good news Flanagan will be battling with Dunne and Baldwin to start in this week’s fixtures.
19: Lee Cattermole (17) - Back in training as he recovers from his latest injury; with Leadbitter now tasked with running the Sunderland midfield, it will be fascinating to see if our former captain remains in the manager’s immediate plans.
20: Bryan Oviedo (18) - Out with a calf injury, Oviedo’s status in the squad remains a mystery after he narrowly missed out on a loan move to West Bromwich Albion.
21: Kazaiah Sterling 22: Benji Kimpioka 23: Robbin Ruiter 24: Alim Ozturk 25: Bali Mumba 26: Glenn Loovens 27: Denver Hume 28: Jack Bainbridge 29: Donald Love 30: Jake Hackett 31: Lee Connelly 32: Jack Diamond 33: Brandon Taylor 34: Jordan Hunter 35: Daniel Neil 36: Max Stryjek