The early winners and losers of Phil Parkinson's Sunderland reign as he assesses squad ahead of January transfer window
Phil Parkinson has faced a relentless schedule since taking charge as Sunderland manager having already overseen five games.
It has been a mixed bag of results so far with two home wins and two defeats away from the Stadium of Light in the league and the Carabao Cup exit to Oxford United on penalties.
Five games into his reign, our team of SAFC writers examine the early winners and losers among the Sunderland squad as he continues to run the rule over his options ahead of the January transfer window.
Mark Donnelly: "George Dobson has been a near ever-present under Parkinson and, with his relentless energy key to the way the new manager wants to play, that doesn’t look likely to change soon. Having been in and out the side prior to his arrival, Dobson definitely falls under the ‘winner’ category.
"So too does Duncan Watmore, whose return has proved a real positive for the Black Cats. If Parkinson can keep him fit, then he could prove key as the season progresses.
"Joel Lynch and Jordan Willis have also shone having built-up a strong pairing at the back, but the biggest winner under the new management team has to be Denver Hume.
"His performances have stepped up a gear since Parkinson’s appointment and his attacking qualities are shining through.
"Sunderland’s new style of play seems to suit him down to the ground - and now it’s about the youngster maintaining this high level of performance on a regular basis."
Richard Mennear: "George Dobson and Luke O'Nien. The pair of Jack Ross signings have been two of the more consistent performers since Parkinson took charge, regularly winning praise from their new boss.
"O'Nien will continue to be used at full-back and further forward and he showed his attacking prowess against Southend, scoring a diving header for the second successive game.
"Dobson had an up and down start to the season but has settled in recent games and continues to show real promise in the centre of midfield alongside Max Power - the duo have quickly become the first choice pairing in central midfield."
MD: "While practically every player has had a chance under Parkinson, one hasn’t - Dylan McGeouch.
"While he was hardly a regular under Ross, the Scot - prior to the EFL Trophy game last night - hadn't taken to the field at all under Parkinson.
"McGeouch’s opportunities in League One look to be limited in the short-term at least."
RM: "Dylan McGeouch and Marc McNulty have both struggled for game time in the league under Parkinson, having to make do with a place on the bench in the main.
"The pair will hope to use the upcoming cup games to stake a claim for a regular starting spot when League One action returns.
"McGeouch failed to cement a regular place under Ross and despite strong speculation he'd leave in the summer, he remained on Wearside but is yet to nail down a starting spot."
MD: "While clean sheets have been pleasing, perhaps the biggest plus from Parkinson’s reign so far is the improvement to home form.
"It’s been well-documented that too many draws - particularly at the Stadium of Light - proved Sunderland’s downfall last term, but there looks as if there will be no such issues under the new management.
"Home form will be key if Sunderland are to surge up League One, and Parkinson’s first two home games have signaled a marked improvement in that respect.
"Long may it continue."
RM: "The return of clean sheets.
"In successive home games now Sunderland have kept a clean sheet, in the thrashing of Tranmere Rovers and then again against Southend United.
"The away form remains a huge concern with four league defeats already but at least the side has shown they are now capable of keeping out the opposition at home, something they must now replicate on the road otherwise a third season in the third tier awaits."
MD: "Questions still persist over Sunderland’s attacking outlook, with a lack of cutting edge in front of goal evident in the last few weeks.
"This is nothing new, of course, but Parkinson will have to figure out how to get the best out of Will Grigg and - when he returns from injury - Charlie Wyke.
"Marc McNulty may feel aggrieved that he hasn’t been given a chance yet after his steady start to the campaign, but with Parkinson saying that he had ‘work to do’, it looks likely that Grigg will continue in the striking role in the short-term at least. It will be key, therefore, to get him firing as soon as possible."
RM: "The away form and the lack of goals from Will Grigg.
"Sunderland have been desperately poor on the road all season. Parkinson has already twice tasted defeat away from home, though the first game was only 48-hours after he'd taken charge so you could forgive him that one.
"Grigg's lack of goals remains a concern even if his overall play has been fine this season, Sunderland have at least shown they are trying to get the most out of him with more crosses into the box and balls to feet."
The youngster taking his chance?
MD: "I’ve already touched on Denver Hume and George Dobson’s fine performances under Parkinson, and they are undoubtedly the two youngsters who have made their mark so far.
"So too has Benji Kimpioka who, albeit through circumstance, has found himself on the bench in recent weeks.
"Parkinson has been quick to point out that he will give youth a chance and has frequently invited under-23 players to train with the first team - and Kimpioka may well be in line for more opportunities moving forward."
RM: "Denver Hume. The academy product has had a rollercoaster start to the season as he attempts to cement his place as first choice left-back.
"But in recent games he has shown his class, his crossing ability led to O'Nien's winner against Southend and he looks a real threat going forward, his dynamic style of play and willingness to get at the defenders a big plus.
"Defensively he needs to improve, positionally and his heading too but he has shown real signs of progress since Parkinson took charge."