JOHN O’Shea believes the quiet progress of Sunderland’s defence shows the strength in depth the club has.
Much of the focus so far in the Black Cats’ campaign has been on Steven Fletcher’s league goals – and the lack of them from any other player.
But O’Shea prefers to quietly make the case for the defence, with Sunderland keeping four clean sheets in their first seven games.
In the Premier League they are conceding less than a goal a game, and O’Shea said: “I think defensively we’ve been strong despite not having had a settled back four so far.
“I think that’s all credit to the players involved – you’ve had Titus Bramble and Danny Rose, for example, slotting in without disrupting things.
“That’s what the manager wanted this season – to improve the squad in defence as well as attack, and the signings he has brought in have done that.
“It means when you do pick up injuries, you can bring in replacements without too much of a problem.”
It’s not just the back four that have distinguished themselves though, with Simon Mignolet particularly catching the eye.
“The two saves he made against Wigan last weekend – and the one from Kevin Nolan at West Ham – they were special,” O’Shea said.
“But he has been doing that ever since he came to the club, and he is keeping a quality keeper out of the side in Keiren Westwood too.
“The manager is very lucky to have the two keepers he has.
“I think, defensively, the team as a whole has been working very hard on getting back into position and recovering the ball, and that’s important, especially in games where you come under pressure.
Despite their unbeaten, solid start to the season going into today’s game against champions Manchester City, Sunderland are yet to truly hit top gear.
But O’Shea believes the side will only improve as the campaign progresses – particuly the attacking players.
He said: “It’s all about getting fitter and sharper and in terms of fitness, even Fletch has been getting better with every game.
“All the players, the attacking players especially, are getting fitter and stronger, and the more minutes they get under their belt, the better they will be.
“From Adam Johnson’s point of view, it has been a bit upsetting for him that he had a little niggle and it has taken some time for him to get over it.
“Thankfully he has now, and he showed some glimpses last weekend against Wigan of the quality he has.
“Once he gets fully fit, he will be a major asset for us.”