The Black Cats are on 49 points after 24 matches and lead the pack, although Rotherham and Wigan would both move above them if they win their games in hand on Lee Johnson’s side.
Whilst the Scottish forward may be banging in the goals for Sunderland, another player who is having an outstanding season is versatile beast Luke O’Nien.
The 27-year-old has played as both a defensive midfielder and a left-back this term, having played central midfield, right-back and centre-back in the 2020/21 campaign. This shows that he is a player on whom Johnson can rely to fill a multitude of roles on the pitch, making him a valuable asset for the club as he can plug a number of gaps and is capable of coming in and producing a good performance.
In League One this season, the ex-Wycombe man has averaged an exceptional SofaScore rating of 7.11. He has kept up a high standard in his displays week in, week out despite needing to change position at times to fill in for other players, which highlights his consistency, quality and versatility.
O’Nien was previously hailed by ex-Sunderland manager Jack Ross, who said: “He ticked a lot of boxes and then even when we did one-v-one stuff in training, he is awkward to get past, he is physical, competitive, and he doesn’t like people going by him.
“He has been a revelation in that respect, and credit to him for how he has faced that challenge.”
His performances this season have lived up to these comments, as he has completed 30 tackles in 16 matches in League One whilst also making 22 interceptions. He has won 134 duels overall this season, averaging 8.3 won per match, while winning an impressive 65% of the battles he has competed, as per SofaScore.
He has also been able to contribute in possession. As per SofaScore, he has created 0.9 chances per game and scored twice, whilst having 64 touches of the ball per match. Although he is not a prolific scorer or creator, he is able to chip in alongside the outstanding defensive work that he puts in every week, therefore making a vital contribution to helping Sunderland lead the way in League One going into 2022.
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