Tony Mowbray‘s Sunderland side suffered a disappointing defeat at the weekend as they were beaten 2-1 by Coventry City in the Championship.
The Black Cats have now lost their last two matches in the division and have gone three games without a win, although they remain in contention to make the play-offs as they are only four points off the top six.
They are competing at the top end of the table after being promoted from League One just last year, and that is down to some of the excellent work that Kristjaan Speakman has done in the market in recent campaigns.
The former Birmingham chief has unearthed a number of gems for the Wearsiders, and one of the more recent signings with whom he has struck gold is defender Daniel Ballard.
Has Daniel Ballard been a good signing for Sunderland?
Sunderland signed the centre-back from Premier League club Arsenal for an undisclosed fee last summer, and he has been a terrific addition to the squad.
Introducing himself to the fans, the youngster said: “Supporters can expect to see a player who loves defending and tackling – I’m more of a traditional centre half and I want to add those qualities to the team, whilst also bringing something a little extra. I’m now looking to take the next step forward in my career and I believe this is the perfect place to do it.”
At the time of the move, Football Transfers valued him at £2m (€2.3m), but his form for the Black Cats since arriving at the Stadium of Light has caused his valuation to soar. Football Transfers currently place his Expected Transfer Value at £4.3m (€4.9m), which this means that his xTV has rocketed by 115% in less than one season on Wearside.
Despite missing 21 competitive games with a foot injury earlier in the campaign, Ballard has been superb when called upon by Mowbray and has proven himself to be more than capable of delivering excellent performances at Championship level.
Will Sunderland finish in the play-offs?
The 23-year-old has averaged a Sofascore rating of 6.97 across 15 appearances in the division, making 3.1 tackles and interceptions per match and winning 63% of his duels.
Journalist Josh Bunting described the gem as a “powerful” unit who is “commanding” and “excellent” in the air, which is backed up by the aforementioned statistics as the ex-Arsenal defender has dominated his physical battles in the second tier.
Of the current Sunderland players who have made more than one appearance in the Championship, only Ross Stewart, Alex Pritchard and Aji Alese have averaged higher Sofascore ratings than Ballard’s 6.97, which suggests that he has been one of Mowbray’s top performers at the Stadium of Light.
Therefore, Speakman struck gold by signing the young defender last summer, as the 23-year-old has already proven himself to be a success on the pitch, and his soaring value indicates that he could earn the club millions in profit in the future if he continues to develop.