We continue our quest to sort those who are part of the solution at Sunderland from those who can be part of the solution.
With January on the horizon and thoughts turning to strengthening the struggling squad, we are asking our writers to make a simple judgement on the current Sunderland squad. Put simply, are they part of the problem or can they be part of the solution?
If you missed Part 1, then it can be found HERE.
Simon Walsh: Westwood is a perfectly capable backup, but is he part of the solution? Probably not in all honesty. I can't see him being at the club beyond the summer, and he won't really be missed. I can imagine O'Neill will want to bring in an experienced (Age 35 or older) backup to help Mignolet grow.
David Boyle: Certainly an able keeper but falls well short of the standard Mignolet has now set and I can see him looking to move away for first-team football. As Simon has alluded to replacing him with a older, wiser head who will be happy to play reserve to our Belgian may be the preferred option.
Dan Williams: Not a bad option to have on the bench, but he's not happy at being there, and we don't seem super keen to offer him any reassurances that he'll ever be anything else. Can't see him sticking around for long.
Chris Weatherspoon: Meh. A good backup, which is what you need in the goalkeeping position. Still, if offered decent money, the club should bite the buyers' hands off.
Karl Jones: Having been heir to the Irish goalkeeping jersey, Westwood arrived at Sunderland with intentions of being no. 1 at the Stadium of Light. Simon Mignolet has put an end to that, though, and whilst a more-than-able deputy, I suspect first-team football may tempt Westwood away in the near future.
Verdict: Part of the problem (at least not part of the solution)
Simon Walsh: This might be a slight shocker, but I don't think so. I think he's been brought in by O'Neill as a temporary fill in until whoever it is he wants to lead his defence emerges. It won't be Cuellar in any other role than a backup, as good as he's been.
David Boyle: Difficult one. Cuellar has certainly settled well and has, overall, done ok since his arrival but you have to wonder if he was the right deal at the right time and may well be "upgraded" shall we say.
Dan Williams: Tricky, but I can't see him being around in the long term. As Mr Graham has said in the past, he seems to be nothing more than a stop-gap, and his arrival on a free transfer does nothing to suggest otherwise. He might be an O'Neill signing, but I can't see him being a first-team regular come next season.
Chris Weatherspoon: I quite like Cuéllar, but I sense he was signed more out of opportunism than with a view to holding down a long-term first team berth. If the club can get in a more experienced or, preferably, pacey central defender, he should be let go.
Karl Jones: Before running into the good teams and a bit of a defensive meltdown, the ability to keep clean sheets was Sunderland's saving grace, and Cuellar was a big part of that. I suspect him or John O'Shea, in time, will be partnered with a commanding presence of O'Neill's choosing.
Verdict: Part of the problem
Simon Walsh: If Matt Kilgallon is the answer, I shudder to think what the question is. No, just no.
David Boyle: A perfect example of a player who's stock rises among Sunderland fans the longer they are away from the first-team picture. Simply not up to the standard we should be aspiring to.
Dan Williams: Always a bit of a baffling signing. Bye Matt.
Chris Weatherspoon: In a squad with too many squad players, he sits with Fraizer Campbell in the special 'not-even-good-enough-to-just-be-called-a-squad-player' corner. He's by no means the worst defender even in the past decade at Sunderland, but he's a man that belongs in a side yo-yo-ing between the top of the Championship and the bottom of the Premier League. I'm pretty sure that's not what we're aiming for.
Karl Jones: The rabona was pretty neat. Getting out-witted by Kevin Davies was not.
That is Kilgallon's time at Sunderland in a nutshell - immense against Manchester City on New Year's Day, lamentable against Norwich City earlier this month. That is probably a result of consequence, as Kilgallon was hastily-signed, loaned out and ultimately forgotten about by Steve Bruce. Another whose contract is due to expire, a fresh start would do him good.
Verdict: Part of the problem
Simon Walsh: Yes, I think so. Gardner was sold by O'Neill early on at Villa, but he also gave him his debut. I think he likes Gardner's adaptability and occasional strikes from distance.
David Boyle: Decent, adaptable and capable of hitting a freekick or a long-range effort, certainly worth keeping around the squad just for the different options he has in his locker. Deserving of another, prolonged, stint at right-back in my book as well.
Dan Williams: Certainly part of the solution in my book. Flexible, with a hell of a shot on him (when it goes within 30 yards of the goal) Gardner has really worked to turn his Sunderland career around, after some would have been happy with him leaving the club when he was apparently homesick. I hope he's here for a while yet.
Chris Weatherspoon: Decent enough, but I'd expect him to be let go at some stage along the rebuilding process. His good performances in midfield are too sporadic; he offers an adequate option at right full-back but will be pushed down the pecking order if the club can acquire themselves a better one, which they should look to do. Could probably get good money for him, so I'd not say he's part of the solution.
Karl Jones: For me, he should have never been allowed to leave right-back. Comfortable enough on the ball there (as opposed to the centre of midfield where his formative displays were blotted by continual dispossession), defends ably and has naturally attacking intentions.
Granted, this season he has looked more assured in midfield, which enhances his value as a squad player, but his finest games for Sunderland have come at full-back.
Verdict: Part of the solution
Simon Walsh: Absolutely yes. It's a problem trying to work out where he fits into things in the side, and he can let you down occasionally, but he's worth keeping around for the moments of magic he does provide. We haven't got anyone else like that in the squad currently.
David Boyle: Undoubtedly. Simply put he is one of the most skillful players I have seen in my time in a red and white shirt, capable of winning a game on his day. Whether or not his day is often enough is another matter however but we would be out of our minds to let talent such as Sessegnon slip through our grasp.
Dan Williams: Tough one. While Sess' is clearly the most skilled player in the squad by a country mile, that's not to say that always putting him in the team makes us a better side. However, when the two things are balanced against each other, he's got to be vital to us, hasn't he?
Chris Weatherspoon: I'm going to court controversy here, but I do find our Sessegnon predicament something that may result in him not being with us for the long-term. A brilliant footballer, but I wonder whether or not he's a poor fit in the system O'Neill tries to play. If the manager cannot find a way to get Sessegnon and two wingers performing well consistently, Sess may well be the fall guy. That said, no one gets anywhere by selling their best players - especially when they have so few quality ones - so I hope I'm proven wrong.
Karl Jones: Without question, Sunderland needs to do all it can to keep hold of Sessegnon, although he's at an age now where it's unlikely any of the big clubs will make a move for him.
Capable of the sublime and the ridiculous, particularly when it comes to his shooting, adding more of Sessegnon's calibre should be on the agenda.
Verdict: Part of the solution
Simon Walsh: No, he won't be here much longer. Much like Westwood, he's a handy fill-in but no world-beater. Currently he's been struck down with a case of David Meyler Syndrome I hear, so hopefully he recovers soon.
David Boyle: I think O'Neill has already made his mind up on Vaughan. His lack of appearances during a spell when the centre of midfield has been the issue it is crystal clear his days are numbered on Wearside.
Dan Williams: I'd like to think so, as I was a big fan of his when he signed, but in a position that we are well stocked in, Vaughan is just surplus to requirements.
Chris Weatherspoon: Similar to Gardner, his good performances in midfield are too inconsistent. I expect he is tired of warming the bench, so I'd say he won't be around much longer.
Karl Jones: Seemingly second fiddle to Jack Colback as the ‘keep it simple, regenerate possession' middle man, but even then Seb Larsson has been used in midfield whilst Vaughan remains without a league start this season.
The Welshman was part of the good run under O'Neill. Scratch that, he started it, but his neat and tidy approach has been overlooked. Midfield reinforcements are expected, which could well leave him vulnerable.
Verdict: Part of the problem
Simon Walsh: I had real high hopes for Saha when he signed for us, but he's really showed his age this season and has absolutely nothing left in the tank. Not really one for now let alone the future.
David Boyle: Not a chance. Has failed to make any impact whatsoever when on the pitch and I suspect he will be soon on his way with few people noticing or even caring.
Dan Williams: Yey! We've signed Louis Saha? Oh, it's not 2002. No thanks, he's too old, and contributes very little indeed.
Chris Weatherspoon: I was actually quite happy when he signed this summer, but I think it's safe to say his most influential act on Wearside thus far has been to act as a compatriot for the French-speaking Stephane Sessegnon. Ultimately, Saha is too old to be part of any long-term solution - might still surprise some this season, mind.
Karl Jones: An experienced stop-gap, Saha's one-year deal merely covered Sunderland until Connor Wickham was ready. That time, if recent weeks are anything to go by, is now.
Verdict: Part of the problem
Simon Walsh: Brown isn't going to be here in the long-term, and I'd be surprised if he was even still in the game by the end of the season. Injuries have caught him up and he's not going to be involved at all, regardless of who the manager is.
David Boyle: I've long since given up on seeing Brown in a Sunderland shirt ever again, chronic injury issues at this stage in his career does not bode well for the bloke and I can either see him retiring whilst still on the books or moving on to clutter up somebody else's physio room come the end of his contract.
Dan Williams: Wes Brown. That fella in the canoe. Lord Lucan. Him out of the Manic Street Preachers. What do they all have in common? Well they all just disappeared. Is Wes Brown still on this earth? I'd love him to be fit and in the team, I thought he was superb when he signed, but his frankly woeful injury record means that he's never going to be a viable solution.
Chris Weatherspoon: You mean he's not dead? As much as the experience argument I outlined for O'Shea applies for Brown too, it means sod all if he's never fit enough to get on the pitch. Definitely part of the problem, and I wouldn't expect him to last any longer on Wearside than his current contract permits.
Karl Jones: In a similar boat to Titus Bramble - a club of current stature cannot simply carry players, especially with Financial Fair Play as football's modern era canopy. He is dependable when on the field, the only problem being that has yet to happen this season.