There have been few positives this season at Sunderland, on or off the pitch, but the form of Patrick van Aanholt has certainly been one of them. He is starting to live up to the promise he showed as a youngster and is perhaps benefiting from a more settled home after numerous loan spells in the early part of his career.
Chelsea signed him from PSV while he was still in his mid-teens and he was subsequently loaned out to numerous clubs around England. Van Aanholt failed to make a lasting impression during brief spells at Coventry, Newcastle, Leicester and Wigan over a three year period and it was becoming pretty obvious he was unlikely to make the grade at Stamford Bridge.
However rather than sell the player, Chelsea let him join Vitesse Arnhem on an extended loan deal which would last two and a half seasons and it was during that time he picked up his first international cap for the Netherlands and did enough to convince Sunderland to pay a modest fee of around £1.75 million for his services in the summer of 2014.
He was one of Sunderland’s brighter sparks in his first season at the club, offering the Mackems a genuine attacking threat from left-back. However a dislocated shoulder kept him out for two months of the campaign including the busy festive period and it hasn’t been until the current campaign that Van Aanholt has really started to flourish and look like one of the better full-backs in the league.
Certainly in terms of attacking full-backs it is hard to think of many better performers than the Dutchman this season. Van Aanholt has been a key figure in some of Sunderland’s best performances and has chipped in with some vital goals and assists.
He broke the deadlock on 82 minutes in the home win over Stoke in November and only Jermain Defoe in the current Sunderland ranks can better his goal tally of three.
The fact that their joint second top scorer is a left-back perhaps says as much about the team’s problems as it does Van Aanholt’s goalscoring prowess but without the Dutchman’s contribution this season at both ends of the pitch, Sunderland’s plight would be a whole lot graver.
In-demand and proven
They have suffered just one defeat in their last six matches but remain in the bottom three and there is still a good chance that they will end the season there. Should the worst happen then Van Aanholt will be one of the few players in their squad that will surely be in high demand.
He made his second international appearance last week in Holland’s 3-2 friendly defeat to France and although his career took a while to take off, at 25 he now looks very much like a proven Premier League performer.
Therefore, there is every chance that Van Aanholt will be playing in the top flight again next season even if his current team are not.
Written by Mark Sochon
Follow Mark on Twitter @tikitakagol
Check out his brilliant blog on all things La Liga, Tiki-Taka-Gol!
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