PATRICK van Aanholt insists he will not succumb to complacency – despite playing every minute of Sunderland’s Premier League campaign so far this season.
Van Aanholt became the only specialist left-back in Sunderland’s squad when he arrived from Chelsea this summer and, as expected, the £1.5million capture has been a fixture in Gus Poyet’s starting line-up in the top flight.
Fellow new boy Billy Jones replaced the Dutch international in the Capital One Cup victory at Birmingham, but, with the former West Brom man more comfortable at right-back, van Aanholt has no head-to-head rival for his place.
But van Aanholt says he will not take his spot for granted and stresses that he cannot afford to let his standards slip, either in training or in competitive action.
“In the team, no-one is secure,” said the 24-year-old.
“The manager puts the team up and whoever is in it, plays.
“In training, I work hard every day to improve myself and get better and make it difficult for the manager.
“I know I am the only left-back, but others can also play left-back. I am just doing the best I can do and trying to do what I can to stay in the team.”
Van Aanholt made just two league appearances for Chelsea after coming through the ranks at Stamford Bridge, before getting his career back on track during a two-and-a-half year loan spell with Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem, where he forced his way into the international set-up.
But, while van Aanholt has shown his prowess going forwards during the early stages of his Sunderland career, he has understandably shown defensive naivety too.
That stems from the gulf between the Premier League and the Eredivisie, although van Aanholt believes he is beginning to bridge that gap.
“The pace of the Premier League is tough,” he said. “I need to get used to it.
“I’ve been playing on loan in Holland for the last two years or so and it is different compared to England.
“But I’ve played four games in the Premier League so I am very happy at the moment with the way I am playing and I am finding it easier the more I play.”
Van Aanholt almost helped Sunderland to their first league victory of the campaign last weekend, when he set-up a glorious late chance for Will Buckley against Spurs, which the substitute spurned.
But, given that Sunderland had been utterly dominated by Spurs, van Aanholt was happy just to come away with a point.
“Everyone in the changing room was saying that it was one of the hardest games they had played,” he added.
“Spurs are a good team and it was a tough game. I was very tired.
“They scored an early goal, but we scored the equaliser early as well and it was good to get level so quickly.
“There is a lot of character in the team and you saw that against Spurs.
“We could even have won near the end, but, at the final whistle, we were happy with 2-2.”
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