Sunderland’s players have been given a couple of days to recharge their batteries, with Sam Allardyce fearful of his squad suffering burn-out.
The Black Cats kept their hopes of Premier League survival alive with Saturday’s crucial 3-1 win over basement boys Aston Villa.
It’s nice to have a couple of days off, rest the legs and go from there.Patrick van Aanholt
But they remain four points adrift of safety and now face three quickfire successive away games, albeit this coming weekend’s trip to Arsenal is in the FA Cup.
Allardyce is concerned about the fatigue factor stemming from three trips on the road in the space of eight days, particularly with Sunderland’s squad already stretched by injuries to Younes Kaboul, Jack Rodwell and Seb Larsson.
A host of changes will be made for the FA Cup third round tie at the Emirates, ahead of a crunch Premier League encounter at fellow strugglers Swansea four days later.
A tough game at Tottenham follows on January 19.
But Allardyce has also given those involved during the hectic festive programme a breather, with his first-team regulars not due to report back to training until Wednesday.
Left-back Patrick van Aanholt told the Echo: “We’ve had a tough week with three games in seven days.
“It’s nice to have a couple of days off, rest the legs and go from there.
“We’re looking at it game-by-game.
“Swansea is the next one in the league and we’ve got to focus on that now.
“We got the points against Villa and we can move on now and look forwards to the next game. We’ve got to keep our form.
“We’re still in the relegation battle, but we needed those three points against Villa and that keeps us in contention with the teams above us.”
Van Aanholt made a crucial contribution towards a win which ended Sunderland’s run of five successive defeats and effectively relegates basement boys Villa.
The 24-year-old’s opener benefited from a hefty slice of fortune after taking a hefty deflection off Micah Richards, but that goal began to settle nervy Sunderland, who had been wretched for the first 30 minutes.
Sunderland even held their nerve after Carles Gil’s stunning equaliser for Villa, with Jermain Defoe’s brace securing a priceless victory in the relegation battle, when anything less than three points would arguably have left Allardyce’s side with an insurmountable task to stay in the Premier League.
Van Aanholt said: “I’ll claim it, although I don’t mind who gets it! The bigger thing is we won.
“It was a bit lucky, but a goal’s a goal and it gave us a big boost.
“Sometimes you need the luck and it came at the right time.
“We went in at half-time with a 1-0 lead and then showed some character in the second half.
“They scored the goal after we lost the ball, went down the right and, to be fair, it was a great finish. But we kept our composure.
“We all know that Jermain is a goalscorer and is so sharp. He only needs one chance and he can score a goal.
“On Saturday, he had three chances and scored two goals.
“That’s Jermain. He’s top class and has been in the game for years.”