Picking Sunderland’s five best players this season

After 38 games played in the Premier League, 41 goals scored, 54 conceded, 9 games won, 12 drawn and 17 lost, Sunderland finish out this term with 39 points in 17th place under new boss Paulo Di Canio.

Here are our top five...

1) Steven Fletcher

In the first half of the season Steven Fletcher was right up there with the most efficient and dangerous frontmen in the league and, were it not for the Malleolar injury suffered in March that curtailed his season, he could have well seen his team safe from relegation sooner rather than later as was the case for the Black Cats this term.

His 11 goals and 4 assists in 28 appearances show you just how important he is to the team and his injury coincided with the sacking of Martin O’Neill after a dismal run of 8 games without a win.

Fletcher remains Sunderland’s highest goalscorer despite having missed 2 months of action, which is more a reflection of how little threat the team posses without him than anything else. Another quality striker simply must be a priority for the boss this summer.

2) Stephane Sessegnon

The Black Cats’ second highest scorer and undoubtedly their most important player overall this term is Stephane Sessegnon who, since his arrival in January 2011 has been involved in more goals than any other player at the club.

This term he’s notched up 7 goals and 6 assists from attacking midfield and played in 35 out of 38 games – he is their most creative and intelligent player and pretty much the driving force behind all good things at the Stadium of Light this term.

3) Craig Gardner

His midfield partner and arguably the unsung hero of the bunch Craig Gardner has made 33 appearances, scored 6 goals and made 2 assists.

If Sessegnon is the brains of the outfit, Gardner is the engine and he commands the central areas admirably. He’s popped up with goals when the team were in trouble and made the difference in the end.

If you look at the away goals he scored against the other relegation candidates Wigan and Reading earlier in the season in both games, which the Black Cats won by just a goal margin, those were 6 points, which, now in retrospect, were vitally important to their survival.

4) Simon Mignolet

Where would Sunderland be without Simon Mignolet? Well, probably in the Championship next season, in reality.

The Belgian keeper has played in every single minute of every league game this term and kept an astonishing 11 clean sheets. Considering some of the woeful defending displays in front of him this season, that is astonishing.

Di Canio must do everything and anything to ensure he remains at the Stadium of Light next term if they want to improve their position.

5) Danny Rose

Loan star Danny Rose has been a revelation this season. The young Spurs left-back has really put in a shift for Sunderland and made sharp advances in his own development as a result. Rose has won 92% of the tackles he has attempted this season, which is a fine rate for a player of just 22 years.

Di Canio will do well to keep him for another season as Tottenham will likely want him back but he’s exactly the kind of loan signing the new boss should be looking to bring in over the summer.

images: © vagueonthehow, © Ronnie Macdonald

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