Gus Poyet says that Emanuele Giaccherini is like a new player this season due to the attitude he has shown during pre-season.
Much was expected when Giaccherini signed for the club in the summer of 2013, but he failed to live up to the hype last season and looked off the pace.
As a result, the versatile midfielder's future at the Stadium of Light was much speculated about over the summer, but it appears that Giaccherini was simply focused on his football and Poyet says he has been impressed by the Italian's form.
"I see him as a new player, a totally new player," Poyet enthused. "It was difficult for him to play with us last year for different reasons, not only because of him, me picking the team in a certain way, not finding that position for him in the team regularly.
"He did well for a period in November, December when he was playing wide, but he didn't score and we needed something else, and it didn't work. Then he came back in pre-season in an incredible way - he was outstanding, one of the top three players in everything. He was playing well, he was pushing for a start, and he got injured.
"Then he came back sooner than expected. He has played two 90 minutes with Italy, which is very difficult - only 11 players can start for Italy, a great national team, and he is one of them, which is fantastic. The idea is to use him and to make sure that if he picks himself, that will be to the benefit of the team."
Giaccherini is sure to have gained confidence from the international break, where he starred in both of his nation's games against Norway and Holland.
The Azzuri won both the matches 2-0 to get their European qualifying campaign off to the perfect start and it was a perfect example of Giacherrini's quality.
The 29-year-old was a key part of Italy's side at the 2012 European Championships and has 21 caps for his country to date.
It was because of this that his arrival on Wearside was so highly anticipated, but he will be looking to show more than he did last season this time around.
Giacherrini has taken his time to adapt to English football, as many players do, but it would appear that he has grasped the pace of it better now and he is just waiting for a chance.
His first appearance of the season came against Birmingham City in the League Cup before the international break and he will aiming to break into Poyet's Premier League starting line-up soon.
It seems that he is going about it the right way and his first chance to impress, from the start, in the league this season could come against Tottenham Hotspur this weekend.
The Black Cats take on Spurs still looking for their maiden win of the season and their chances look markedly increased if Giacherrini can hit top form and provide them with another attacking option.