Niall Quinn has heaped praise on the impact made by £9million January signing Wahbi Khazri.
Quinn has compared the attacking midfielder's style of play to that of former Black Cats left-back Micky Gray - who made 410 appearances in a red and white shirt.
Khazri, one of five new signings, joined last month alongside Lamine Kone, Jan Kirchhoff, Steve Harper and Dame N'Doye.
"Teams are starting to cross the ball again. The game is evolving," said Quinn, a former player, manager and chairman at Sunderland.
"It is really refreshing to see and Khazri can do that. What happens is the players start to read it then.
"If it is coming more often, then you know what's happening.
"It gives you an advantage. Half a yard as an attacking player and you can find a bit of space knowing that the ball's coming in.
"Micky could do that. Micky probably laid on the most famous goal I scored in a Sunderland shirt anyway.
"I scored a header against Newcastle and Micky ran the length of the field and whipped one in for me.
"So I have every reason to be grateful for Micky Gray.
"I just hope that the likes of Jermain Defoe and others feel the same way with Khazri come the end of the season," Quinn told Sun FM.