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Van Aanholt And Sunderland - Right Match, Right Time

For the first time in Roker Report's history, we can say that Sunderland own a left back on a permanent multi-year contract. Kristan Heneage guides us through the career path that has brought Patrick van Aanholt to Wearside.

Dean Mouhtaropoulos


It was a blunt admission from Sunderland's latest signing earlier this summer: "Where I play next year? I do not know yet. At least not at Chelsea. I'm done here."

The Dutch international left-back had moved to Stamford Bridge from PSV Eindhoven with high hopes and aspirations. Alongside Jeffrey Bruma - now back at PSV after an equally unfulfilled time at Chelsea - they were seen as the bright blue future of Chelsea.

It was during this period that the left back worked with Lee Congerton, Sunderland's current Sporting Director. Congerton was working as youth coach at Chelsea and will have no doubt put forth Van Aanholt's name when the club identified left-back as a problem position.

Yet with Van Aanholt granted little playing time in England there is an uncertainty as to who or what the club have purchased. The 23-year-old has spent the previous two and a half seasons playing for Vitesse in his homeland - the consequence of a partnership between Chelsea and Vitesse that sees the latter loaned players from Stamford Bridge.

It was during this period that Van Aanholt truly began to grow as a player. Also enjoying brief loan spells at Coventry City Newcastle and Leicester City in the English lower leagues, his time at Vitesse gave him consistent opportunities to play.

Working in a flexible system, the past season saw him spend time at both left back and left midfield - a consequence of time spent playing as a winger in the Chelsea youth team.

Nearly sold to FC Twente, it was only due to the work of Vitesse's interim owner Merab Jordania that he remained on Chelsea's books. Jordania was a huge fan of Van Aanholt, and admitted to being furious that Chelsea were attempting to sell someone he perceived to be one of their best talents. Already on his way to Enschede, Jordania intervened and Van Aanholt remained.

As the handful of highlight reels will show, Van Aanholt is a man who likes to get forward and likes to attack. His pace is a huge asset and something Sunderland lacked during last season. If the club do complete a deal for Cristian Rodriguez, it will give the left hand side a mobility it did not have last season which can be an asset both at home and away.

The defender does have aspects of his game that need to be worked on however. Much like Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker, there are concerns over the 23-year-old's ability to do his primary job, that of defending. However, in recording four goals and three assists, the upside of Van Aanholt's stats cannot be undersold.

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