The terms ‘speed kills’ and ‘no substitute for pace’ are often thrown around in elite sport, and for good reason. Individuals that possess natural speed have an innate advantage over the opposition, particularly given that the style of Premier league football is becoming increasingly reliant on power and pace.
Teams like Southampton and Crystal Palace have tailored their recruitment towards this, which makes them very dangerous on the counter attack – something which is incredibly advantageous away from home. For too long Sunderland have been devoid of genuine pace throughout the side, and this has been a large contributing factor in our lack of attacking threat in recent years. It’s likely that we’ll have inferior possession stats in a fair few games next season, and this places special emphasis on getting up the pitch quickly and transitioning from defence to attack without hesitation.
Although we’re yet to see Jeremain Lens in a red and white shirt, anyone that has worked with him tends to gravitate towards one term as a description – pace. An old fashioned winger he looks to be very direct, and gives us a much needed option in that left forward position which we struggled to fill last season.
Patrick van Aanholt endured a fairly solid opening campaign on Wearside, cementing his place as a regular starter in the Premier League. Considering the minimal transfer fee we paid Chelsea and his relative inexperience at this level, the fullback acquitted himself very well and definitely has the potential to improve. He is liable to be positionally exposed which needs improving, however he was one of our most potent attacking threats last season and it was very noticeable when he was missing from the starting line-up.
How Dick Advocaat utilises Lens, and whether or not this partnership will prove to be fruitful will become more evident throughout pre-season. However I think many of us are just excited at the potential of having two players on the same side of the pitch, who can skin opposition full backs. As I mentioned in the introduction you have to go back to the Peter Reid days where we possessed serious threat on the flanks, and anyone that remembers those times will marvel at the atmosphere in the Stadium when the ball was shifted quickly down our left.
We’ll keep everything crossed that these two lads can give us those similar ‘edge of your seat’ moments. Yes they’ll be times when they frustrate and take the wrong options, but they have the potential to scare the life out of opposition fullbacks and that is something which has been absent at the Stadium of Light for far too long.