Unlikely goal hero Patrick van Aanholt is one of several Sunderland players who have improved their decision-making in recent games, believes Sam Allardyce.
Individual mistakes were at the heart of Sunderland’s troubles when Allardyce arrived at the Stadium of Light last month, with van Aanholt one of the principal culprits, before he was finally taken out of the firing line.
Patrick’s got a lot of ability and if he uses it in the right areas like he did on Saturday he stays in the team.Sam Allardyce
But Allardyce’s switch to a 3-5-2 formation has suited van Aanholt, with an extra layer of defensive protection giving the Dutchman licence to use his pace going forwards.
Van Aanholt marked his improvement over recent weeks with a maiden Premier League goal, a cracking low drive from outside the box, to hand Sunderland back-to-back wins for the first time this season after the Black Cats eventually found the breakthrough against 10-man Stoke.
“It’s not difficult to see his qualities, it’s just using them in the right areas at the right time,” said Sunderland boss Allardyce.
“It’s your decision-making process and I have to get everybody’s decision-making process better, which has been about cutting out these mistakes.
“I’m not particularly talking about Patrick now, but I’ve got players who’ve made a lot of mistakes and we had to cut that out and stop that easy option for the opposition to score against us, which is what we were doing.
“You could call us a soft touch if you like.
“But we’ve cut that out now and started being more disciplined.
“Patrick’s got a lot of ability and if he uses it in the right areas like he did on Saturday he stays in the team.
“Not only has he done the defensive side well, he’s also got down the left-hand side to try to create as much as he can, and then he’s scored a very, very good goal as well.
“So he’s made a massive contribution, as Duncan (Watmore) did.”
Allardyce was particularly pleased that van Aanholt’s goal – which stemmed from Adam Johnson laying off a free-kick short to the ex-Chelsea man – came from the pair’s own initiative, rather than being pre-planned on the training ground.
“It wasn’t one we practiced on the training ground, it was Adam and Patrick’s own initiative to play that free-kick and so I give them every credit for using their own intelligence in that situation,” added Allardyce.
“It was hugely important that we won this game when Stoke went down to 10 men, hugely important.
“I’d have been bitterly disappointed if it was 0-0, having had the advantage of an extra man.”