Sunderland’s survival was confirmed with a game to spare following their 3-0 win over Everton at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday.
That hadn't seemed likely in November when the Black Cats had capitulated 6-2 against the same opposition to leave them with six points from the first 11 games.
But Sam Allardyce used the transfer window to great effect with the signings of Lamine Kone, Wahbi Khazri and Jan Kirchhoff proving pivotal.
Sunderland safe as Toon drop
Sunderland secured their Premier League status with a 3-0 victory over Everton.
"I think the contribution of the players we got in January was really big for this team to come out of trouble," Allardyce told Sky Sports after the game. Here's why…
Kone was the goalscoring hero on the night with two of Sunderland's three goals and the first of which was a strike that Jermain Defoe would have been proud of - the 27-year-old Ivorian blasting the ball beyond Joel Robles to settle the nerves at the Stadium of Light.
But it's defensively that Kone has had the biggest impact. Sunderland have lost only 21 per cent of the games that the centre-back has played this season compared to 64 per cent without him - and the key to that has been the team's improved defensive solidity.
In the 14 games prior to Kone's inclusion in the line-up, Allardyce's side conceded an average of more than two goals per game - 30 in total. In the 14 games he's started since, Sunderland have let in only 14 goals.
"With Kone coming in, we're becoming a team that's very difficult to break down," Allardyce told Sky Sports. "And that's giving us a platform to win games."
Kirchhoff's impact wasn't quite so immediate. He endured a woeful debut against Tottenham, appearing ill-prepared for the speed and physicality of the Premier League. But the £750,000 signing from Bayern Munich adapted quickly in a holding midfield role.
Jan Kirchhoff has averaged 4.2 tackles per 90 minutes, more than any other Sunderland player this season.
"It's like playing with a third centre-back," Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports. "He's made a massive difference in there." The statistics support that view with Kirchhoff having more touches per game and making more tackles per game than any other Sunderland player.
"I just love the way he plays," said former Sunderland forward Niall Quinn. "He doesn't shirk any responsibility, he makes the tackles if they need to be made. He does that hard side of the game really well and he's a stylish player."
Allardyce agreed when discussing the player with Carragher and Quinn afterwards. He explained: "In midfield we've got stronger. Jan Kirchhoff coming in and sitting and intercepting has kept the pressure off the back four."
For all the platform provided by Kone and Kirchhoff, Defoe still needed help at the other end of the pitch if Sunderland were to score the goals to take them to safety. Invention was lacking and Khazri was the man who helped to deliver it.
Sunderland chances created
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The former Bordeaux winger was the last of the trio to arrive but he soon became a fan favourite. Khazri has created more chances per game than any other Sunderland player. The end product was there when it mattered too.It was Khazri's stunning goal against Chelsea last weekend that helped to spark Sunderland to life in the 3-2 victory at the Stadium of Light. Four days on and the team's safety was confirmed, thanks in no small part to three huge January signings.