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Sunderland v Millwall - Sky Bet Championship

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The Class of 2022: Analysing the impact of Sunderland’s summer signings!

As we approach the halfway point of the season, Mark Wood looks at our summer transfer business and highlights who’s stood out during the first half of the campaign

Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dan Ballard: 7/10

He only featured in three games before injury struck, but those appearances were enough to suggest that we made a good acquisition in Ballard. Indeed, Millwall and their fans were disappointed that we beat them to his signature in the summer, so highly was he rated by them.

The primary focus has been on how much Sunderland have missed the likes of Ross Stewart, and little attention has been paid to how we might’ve fared with a fit Ballard in our defence.

Sunderland v Queens Park Rangers - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Will Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

Jewison Bennette: 6/10

A player on whom the jury is still out due to a lack of game time, Bennette has undoubtedly exhibited a lot of promise during his limited substitute appearances.

His first touch at Reading was a delight, taking the ball down in full flight without breaking stride. Still only eighteen years old, Costa Rica think so much of him that they took him to the 2022 World Cup.

Blackburn Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

Abdoullah Ba: 5/10

Another player brought in with an eye on the future, the nineteen-year-old has generally impressed as a substitute, but has only had one start so far this season.

He’s got the look of a player who can take the midfield battle by the scruff of the neck, but will then play a careless pass straight to the opposition. More game time and experience at this level should eradicate that.

Blackburn Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Ewood Park Photo by Isaac Parkin/PA Images via Getty Images

Leon Dajaku: 4/10

Although he was with us last season, Sunderland were obliged to buy him outright in the summer due to a clause in his loan deal being activated.

He enjoyed an impressive spell under Lee Johnson in League One, but was largely left out under Alex Neil during our playoff run, and that’s continued with Tony Mowbray.

The fact that Dajaku couldn’t force his way into the starting XI when we had no fit strikers for several weeks tells a story.

Luton Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Jack Clarke: 8/10

The former Leeds attacker showed enough promise in our playoff campaign to persuade Sunderland to take the plunge in the summer and buy him outright from Tottenham.

The exact fee remains something of a mystery, with some outlets claiming a figure of £10 million, but whatever it was, Clarke has been paying it back in kind.

In terms of goals and assists, you can’t argue with his contribution, and he also finished off what many labelled the goal of the season, away at Reading.

Reading v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

Alex Bass: 5/10

Signed as cover for Anthony Patterson, Bass has had very few chances to show what he can do, bar his one game in a poor team performance in the League Cup at Hillsborough.

Patterson has continued to cement his own place in the side, which means unless he is injured, we’re unlikely to see what Bass could bring to the team anytime soon.

Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland - Carabao Cup - First Round - Hillsborough Photo by Isaac Parkin/PA Images via Getty Images

Ellis Simms: 7/10

His loan transfer came out of nowhere when it became apparent that Nathan Broadhead wasn’t going to return to the North East.

He got off to an absolute flier in his first few games alongside Ross Stewart, but found life a little harder when he was tasked with leading the line alone. Then he had his own injury issues, which kept him out until fairly recently.

This season is very much a learning curve for Simms, which is why he was sent on loan to us in the first place, but as he builds up his fitness, you can see what he brings to our attack, and he deserved his goal on Saturday.

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

Edouard Michut: 5/10

It’s a bit unfair to try and rate him due to his lack of game time, so I went for a middle mark.

Mowbray has often spoken very highly of him, and from what we hear, he’s a player I’d love to see - a midfielder who can ping raking passes all over the pitch.

Hopefully he’ll get over his injury problems and will get his chance during the coming weeks.

Luton Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Aji Alese: 7/10

He would’ve been awarded an eight with more games under his belt, but Alese only made his return at the weekend after a spell on the sidelines.

He’s one of those players that makes you think, ‘Yeah, he’s got it’. He’s pacy, can tackle, is dominant in the air and he looks ice cool when playing the ball out of defence.

Alese is my personal choice for ‘signing of the season’, and a backline featuring Danny Batth, Ballard and Alese could be quite a unit.

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

Amad Diallo: 8/10

Last but by no means least, Amad got his chance in the run-up to the World Cup break and has repaid it with performances and goals, including one on Saturday against Millwall.

Sunderland’s standout performer during the last half-dozen games, it’s worth remembering that Manchester United paid a reported £40 million for him two years ago, and that he’s still only twenty years old.

The pressure and expectation he must feel to deliver in the long term at Old Trafford can only be imagined, but you can see that he’s relaxing in a red and white shirt and showing what he can do.

He’s also not afraid to get his hands dirty and put in a shift to help out the full-back, and you do feel that there’s enough in the tank for more to come as the season goes on.

Sunderland v Millwall - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images


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