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Allardyce suggests £12m van Aanholt wasn't his first choice, & exposes scale of Sunderland battle

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Reports suggest Patrick van Aanholt is on the verge of a £12m exit from the Stadium of Light, though Sam Allardyce has hinted he wasn't his first choice. But Big Sam's ability to spend big money on a left back again exposes the scale of the survival battle at Sunderland.

Sunderland v Everton - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Sam Allardyce spent his Saturday evening post-defeat wake holding court with assembled journalists and bemoaning his frustrations in the transfer market. He said he's filed away dozens of unsuccessful approaches for players in this window, those who didn't want to buy into his Palace survival mission; and he's now "down to the next level - who's available and who might come".

That'll be our Patrick in that list then - down the next level, as Big Sam continued:

We thought we'd have got more, but we haven't, so we're on the next dozen or so players we've filed down.

Crystal Palace lost at the weekend - again. Big Sam's new side now haven't won in the Premier League since the 3rd of December, and in their last six have only picked up a point. Worse form than even Sunderland - not that that's particularly reassuring.

Allardyce and his Eagles host Sunderland a week on Saturday in a massive relegation six-pointer and by then most are expecting to see left-back Patrick van Aanholt take to the pitch in a Palace shirt.

The Dutchman has endured a fortnight of frenzied transfer talk, and it's taken its toll on his performances. Van Aanholt has always been a full back who has needed to concentrate 100% on his defensive game or otherwise he just makes a hash of it.

And all this gossip surrounding a move culminated in a classic 'Patrick' performance on Saturday as he may as well have been at Selhurst Park than the Hawthorns. West Brom's Matt Phillips enjoyed his afternoon up against van Aanholt, torturing him at will.

The 26-year-old, who has been at the Stadium of Light since the summer of 2014, was directly at fault for Darren Fletcher's first goal and had gone missing - as he tends to - for Chris Brunt's second strike for West Brom.

If someone had started totting up van Aanholt's direct and indirect contribution to Sunderland goals conceded this season, the number would be in double figures by now. For all his attacking prowess - and he is a talented footballer with the ball at his feet - the pay-off in exposure at the back makes the sell-or-not-to-sell conundrum a tricky one.

With Crystal Palace supposedly lodging a bid worth £12m for him, the decision is surely an easy one to take for David Moyes today and it's only a matter of hours before Big Sam is beaming for photos, reunited with van Aanholt in south London.

This is where Sunderland can't compete - buying to keep themselves in the league and remaining competitive as rivals strengthen. Asked if he was concerned that Palace's slow approach may see them slightly behind the likes of Swansea and Hull City who have been successful in getting new faces in, Allardyce said:

Not really, what concerns me is where we are after 38 games. See where we are then.

There was no mention of the fourth relegation rival in the transfer discussion - there was no point, nothing to talk about at Sunderland.

Imagine being David Moyes though - scraping around the free agent market - spending the penultimate Monday of the transfer window assessing whether the aged legs of Joleon Lescott can manage a last four months in the Premier League. Big Sam would crumble, he loves spending after all.

But the ultimate goal is the same at Selhurst Park as it was, and still is, at the Stadium of Light - getting to thirty-seven / thirty-eight points - enough to finish the season fourth bottom of the Premier League, as Big Sam pondered:

if we get safe, it'll be the last two weeks if we're lucky. It was the same at Sunderland - it was two games to go before we got safe, it'll be the same for us all down there.

It will, but Sunderland already look at a disadvantage.