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Report Card (Midfielders): Rating Sunderland’s players now we’ve reached the winter break

Now we’ve reached the winter break it makes sense to take stock of things - and today, we’re grading Sunderland’s midfielders. How have they done so far?

Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Abdoullah Ba: N/A

Given he’s only started one league game I think it would be unfair to judge Ba fully just yet.

He’s looked fairly promising in his various cameos from the bench, but in his sole start against Cardiff he was poor - though he wasn’t the only one.

That doesn’t matter much though. I’m seriously excited about Ba’s potential and I think that he could go on to be a seriously impressive player - I can’t wait to see where he goes from here, once he’s settled in fully and begins to force his way into the side as a regular fixture.

Elliot Embleton: C

Has there been a more inconsistent player than Embo this season? One week he’s quality, the next he stinks the place out - he can’t seem to get into a rhythm and hold down a place.

That said, this is his first season as a Championship player and he’s not really played in the same position for a run of games - I still don’t think Mowbray knows if he’s a ten or a central midfielder yet, and neither do we.

Still, he’s contributed this season and I think he can only get better from here.

Sunderland v Cardiff City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Corry Evans: B

I had serious doubts about Evans’ ability to contribute this season but he’s proved me and many other fans wrong with some of the most consistent performances seen by a Sunderland midfielder in years.

It was often said when we were in League One that some of our players were perhaps better suited to playing in the league above, and I think given what we’ve seen this season so far you could slot Evans right in there as a player who comes under that umbrella.

The fitness issues that plagued him at Blackburn appear to have evaded him, and we’re seeing the best of the lad now at the tender age of 32 - although that in itself presents us with an issue, and in January I’d expect the club to go out and find a player who can compete with him and eventually replace him once his time here is done.

But, for now, Evans remains an important player for us.

Jay Matete: C-

I can’t work Matete out. Is he just not fancied?

He’s clearly a good player with something to offer, but this is now the second manager who doesn’t seem to fancy him. I guess the good form of Corry Evans has ensured he gets nowhere near the team, but it seems that he’s fallen right to the bottom of the pecking order when it comes to Sunderland central midfielders - and that doesn’t bode particularly well for his future.

Come January I’d imagine he’ll want to go out on loan to play football somewhere else.

Sunderland v Cardiff City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Edouard Michut: N/A

Like Ba, I can’t really give the lad a fair rating given he’s not started a game yet. I think he probably would have started against Huddersfield if he had been fit - his cameo just days before when we faced Luton was seriously impressive - but for now I think we just have to hope he settles in quickly and starts contributing in the second half of the season.

Given that the second central midfield spot alongside Evans is up for grabs, you’d expect a player with the pedigree of Michut to be more than capable of stepping in.

Dan Neil: C

Like Embleton, consistency has evaded him this season but this is his first foray into the Championship after all, so it’s to be expected.

Neil’s going to face harsher competition in the second half of the season for his place in the side and if he’s ever going to live up to the hype, he needs to nail that spot down.

He’s capable of absolute brilliance on the ball but some other areas of his game - namely his defensive work, decision-making when inside his own half, and physicality - need work.

I have full confidence that he’ll continue to grow and eventually find that consistency though, because he’s got all the tools to play at the highest level someday.

Birmingham City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Alex Pritchard: C

Pritch is seriously missing his mate Rossco, but aren’t we all?

There’s no surprise that his performances have declined since Stewart’s injury, so let’s just hope he picks back up where they left off once the big man is back in the side after the World Cup break.

My biggest gripe with him has been his set pieces this season. Has he taken a decent one yet? Last year I always felt confident when he was stood over the ball - either on a corner or free kick - that they’d be dangerous, but this season I’ve lost all confidence in him.

His goal at Huddersfield was great and hopefully the break will do him good, because he’s an absolutely brilliant player with so much to offer our side.


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