Cats Eye View: Patrick van Aanholt steps up after Sunderloand boss challenge
Much has been written about Patrick van Aanholt this season, his bad and his good.
His off-field exploits and heart scare have occupied a column inch or 10 – even his football has been given a mention.
The flying Dutchman is the team’s second top scorer behind Jermain Defoe, earning praise for his forward surges.
There have been question marks against his defending, notably in the giveaway in the home defeat against Crystal Palace.
Boss David Moyes has challenged the 26-year-old to improve that side of his game and become one of the best left-backs in the Premier League.
And van Aanholt appears to be listening and is up for the challenge on the evidence of Saturday’s heartbreaking Premier League defeat .
His 32nd-minute free-kick may not have been in the Hristo Stoichkov mould, but, that aside, he was pretty good in both halves of the field.
Van Aanholt had his hands full in the first half-hour but, thereafter, he and Sunderland actually got to see some of the ball.
Teaming up with Steven Pienaar, he led the first Black Cats attack in the 29th minute and nine minutes later shot high, wide and not that handsome with his right foot after a slick one-touch passing move.
In between, his dead-ball from the edge of the area was a tame one.
But all three incidents highlighted his ambition as well as his ability in the forward regions – it also has to be said that Javier Manquillo was not shy to get down the other flank either.
After the break, van Aanholt won Sunderland’s second corner of the day after Defoe had been a nuisance, but it was PVA’s defensive qualities that were most noteworthy.
His positional sense was good while he also made several telling clearances with both boot and bonce.
After his dramatic late intervention against West Bromwich Albion, the talk pointed towards him being used as a left wing-back, but there was enough to suggest from the London Stadium that the traditional number three role is well within his compass.
It was not a bad day overall for the back four.
While the opening 20-odd minutes was, on occasions, heart-in-the-mouth time, the Black Cats withstood it.
And the second half was very much an even affair, with Lamine Koné a strongman at the back.
The former Lorient centre-back was exposed by a throughball which looked to put Simone Zaza clear, but he recovered well and after that did not put a foot wrong.
Like van Aanholt, maybe Koné might just be ready for a stint in the good books.
With Arsenal coming to the Stadium of Light this Saturday, their fine form might just be well timed.