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SEASON PREVIEW: Van Aanholt Tipped For Top Season

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What can we expect from Sunderland this season? Dan Cruse attempts to predict the unpredictable.

Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

What are you most looking forward to this season?

To see how Dick Advocaat builds on last season's escape act with hopefully a full season at the helm, and some solid business in the window so far. Last seasons run in was all about making the team compact and hard to beat, I'm intrigued to see if Dick can make us a bit more expansive and entertaining going forward with the acquisition of Jermaine Lens and hopefully a couple of others to come. The thought of Lens and Patrick Van Aanholt in full flight down our left side, is also very exciting.

Signing of the Summer (so far)?

I'd have to go with Jeremaine Lens from his performances in pre-season, and the fact his pace in attacking positions brings an attribute we were crying out for last season. The lad looks a proper player and scarily similar to Stephane Sessegnon in terms of movements, and that ability to do the unexpected. No doubt he will have us off our seats, a fair few times this season.

In terms of the rest of the league, I would have to say Petr Cech to Arsenal given their struggles over recent years between the sticks. He will save them a lot of points this year, and you have to have a top keeper if you're going to realistically challenge for the title.

Who will be player of the season?

Lens is the obvious one given his ability to excite the fans, but I'm going to go with a bit of a dark horse in Patrick Van Aanholt. He strikes me as a player who is only going to improve, and I think if he can become more positionally aware this season we have a real player on our hands. The potential combination with Lens can offer dynamism and threat in attacking situations, and his pace means he has the ability to dig us out of any holes defensively. Having had a first full season in the Premier League, Van Aanholt should be well equipped to make the subtle adjustments needed to add that much needed consistency to his game.

What would represent a good season?

Mid table mediocrity, and saving our hearts/blood pressure from the annual last gasp escape acts! This season is all about laying the foundations for Dick's successor, so they have something tangible to work with instead of trying to put out fires from the previous regime. A cup run would also be fantastic, as well as keeping up our record up against Sports Direct FC.

Predicted Finish?

Difficult to predict at this point, given we are hoping two of our most important recruits are still to come in the window (creative midfielder, and a target man up top). The window has been solid so far, and the squad definitely looks stronger and much more balanced so far which is a big positive.

If Dick is able to maintain the defensive organisation and solidarity of last season whilst adding two/three more attacking players of real quality, I think we could surprise a few people this season.

The start is always crucial and I'm hoping for a change we come flying out of the blocks this season. It's unlikely to be dull given this is Sunderland AFC we are talking about, but I think we're in for a solid season under the watchful eye of the ‘Little General' - 13th.