It was almost a non-event. With no deadline day fanfare, a subtle proclamation emerged from the Academy of Light on 23 October 2014 – Anthony Réveillère had signed a one-year contract at Sunderland AFC. The Doué-la-Fontaine native of 450 senior career appearances over three European leagues was just a man holding a scarf and a black curtain. The initial response from the Black Cat faithful ranged from mildly confident in his experience to blasé and riled because reasons - and Dossena.
Crystal Palace, 11 days later; with no match training in his days on Wearside, the French fullback played only 36 minutes at Selhurst Park when Patrick van Aanholt blew out his shoulder on the left flank. And so it was, in his inaugural Premier League appearance, Réveillère – a defender whose 1998 senior debut coincided with Connor Wickhams fourth birthday party – was reshuffled into a less-favourable position against the tempest-taxing pace of Wilfried Zaha. It was the typical Sunderland initiation: unwanted exposure waiting to prematurely overwhelm the 35 year old and seal him as another outmoded foolish signing. It has been 414 minutes and five games since that reshuffle ajustify; line-height- 150%nd from his muted announcement; Réveillère is slowly making some noise. Predominantly, this is on account of his proficiency in retention and concentration. In his five competitive matches as an interim right-back/left-back proxy, the former Stade Rennais FC and Angers SCO youth player has been dispossessed only once.
Conversely, his injured counterparts – Billy Jones and Patrick van Aanholt – have been dispossessed four and six times respectively (in Jones’ case, from only two games). His distribution is a below-Poyet-par 75% so far with. Nonetheless, his distribution was the highest of any Sunderland player in the 0-0 against Chelsea with 40 passes – 12 of which being in the opposition half, all successful.
Defensively Réveillère is having a hellish, theatre of war-like Premier League experience contrasted with his encounters in the tactically spacious realm of Serie A. The Frenchman, in a third of games on Wearside to his 13 apps for SSC Napoli, has already near-matched his tally for tackles and interceptions. Promisingly, Réveillère has not waned in his forethought and his tackling has been so shrewd and well-timed. Nothing wild, not a card to his name yet. 75% of his 16 tackles have hit the mark, averaging also 3 interceptions per game. His sagely grasp has also accounted for 7 blocks against potential assists in his defensive third; 5 crosses and 2 passes. It’s MSN Messenger level blocking.
Such stats so early in a campaign are evidently subject to change however Réveillères undertakings throughout his 16-year senior career evoke optimism that his end-of-season performance level will be superior. Unease regarding his age also prompts supporters to reminisce on his invaluable record; Anthony Réveillère is a 5-time consecutive Ligue 1 Champion; 2-time Coupe de France winner, 5-time Trophée des Champions winner and current holding player of the Coppa Italia. He can claim 77 UEFA Champions League appearances with Olympique Lyonnais and 70 international caps from U17 to the France senior national team. He was an untouchable presence at Lyon, once frantically sought after, and yet scarcely €5m has been consumed on his talent since his 1985 introduction to youth team football.
For a man born in the seventies (just), Réveillère has some toil ahead to remain durable at Sunderland. His only momentous injury was his 2009 ACL tear so, excluding his 2013 month-long groin strain, his physical vigour is enduring. His drained limitations were televised at Napoli, pertaining to his acceleration and forward runs, which have been statistically failing on Wearside admittedly.
However his concluding 2012/13 season in Ligue 1 calculated Réveillère as the highest chance-creator of any defender and 8th highest of all league players; also winning more duals than any defender, with a competently robust 79% aerial success rate - a good trait for 5’11". Anything close to these accomplishments would only add to the assuring calmness supporters have warmed to when the fullback is in possession, his presence is that influential.
There is an astute vibe about this Black Cat incarnation of Anthony Réveillère. As the modern game counsels clubs to purchase the next fallacious youth sensation, there is a touch of the old-fashioned, uncomplicated reliability about the French international.
Whether Sunderland's improved form has coincided with his arrival remains to be seen. Still, it is to the disadvantage of Jones and van Aanholt solely at this time as the numbers and fan-favour lean toward this unassuming, seasoned veteran, and to the advantage of the club wholly. While some may rue that his arrival did not come, say, pre-Southampton; it is as Réveillère himself described of his 16-year journey to the Premier League, "…what can I say other than better late than never?".