David Moyes has revealed he dropped Patrick van Aanholt from the Sunderland starting line-up because he wasn’t happy with his defending.
But van Aanholt could be set for a new advanced role after coming on and rescuing a point in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion, with his second goal of the season.
Moyes has hailed the attacking threat the Dutchman brings to the side, but he has concerns over the ex-Chelsea man’s defensive work.
And he admits he felt he had to make changes to his defence for the visit of Tony Pulis’s side.
The 26-year-old was at fault for two of the goals in last weekend’s defeat to Crystal Palace and Moyes admits he has been far from pleased with van Aanholt’s positional play since he took charge.
When asked what van Aanholt’s best position is, Moyes said: “I think he’s probably a wing-back – he showed that.
“I’m pleased with the goals he’s come up with, I know that’s what he’s capable of, but I’ve not been so pleased with some of the positions he’s been taking up defensive-wise.
“I felt as though I needed to do something about it.
“We did a bit of training this week with three at the back and four at the back, just to plant the seed in my mind as well.
“I’m not saying I will (play him there), but I had a look at it just to see what I thought.
“I just felt that he needs to improve on his defending because we know what he brings going forward.”
It has been a turbulent couple of weeks for van Aanholt.
He was withdrawn 40 minutes before the Tottenham Hotspur game on advice of cardiologists, then the following week he was criticised by Moyes for being photographed apparently smoking a shisha pipe.
When asked how he has been, Moyes said: “He seems fine, he’s a very cheery boy everywhere he goes, he’s always smiling. You just never know if what’s happened has had an effect on him. You’re never sure.”
The pictures of van Aanholt dated back to the off-season, but Moyes was not impressed and has spoken with the Dutch international.
Shisha smoking, which is not illegal, is a way of smoking tobacco, sometimes mixed with fruit or sugar, through a bowl and hose or tube.
Moyes added: “He was given a warning letter to say he was warned of his future conduct and told that here at Sunderland we want the players to behave correctly.
“It was in his own time, so we gave him a warning about how he behaves.”
His game-saving goal against the Baggies – which he celebrated with club doctor Ishtiaq Rehman, who is due to leave Sunderland after handing in his notice last week – capped a much more positive weekend for van Aanholt.
And Moyes praised the flying Dutchman for his contribution after coming off the bench for the injured Jan Kirchhoff.
He started and finished the move which brought the Black Cats level in the 83rd minute after Nacer Chadli had fired the Baggies ahead 10 minutes before the break.
It was his second goal of the season, after his strike against Middlesbrough.
He finished with aplomb after converting Duncan Watmore’s cross off the outside of his right boot. “We needed to find a goal,” said Moyes.
“At the time, we had no forward, attacking players we could make changes to how we could play.
“The only thing we could do was to change the system and try to find another way.
“The one thing Pat can do is get goals – he’s got a couple already after scoring against Middlesbrough as well.
“If you said at the end of the season that a left-back gets you two, three, four goals that’s a good return.
“I’m pleased with the goal – it was good play by Duncan Watmore to create the chance.”