Last season, Patrick van Aanholt transformed himself into a true fans’ favourite at Selhurst Park but this term, his displays have left a great deal to be desired, leading me to wonder what exactly is up with the Dutchman?
Having made the left-back’s slot his own under Roy Hodgson after struggling to do so before the gaffer’s arrival, Pat’s play last term was the perfect mixture of high-energy and attacking intent, mixed with a willingness to put in a defensive shift but this term, he’s looked a shadow of that player for the most part.
Whilst his link-up with Wilfried Zaha left many fans drooling last season, he’s managed just one goal and two assists in the Premier League since August, with the understanding the two had in 2017/18 failing to click into place for much of the current campaign. Saturday’s defeat at home to Brighton was if anything, a magnified example of Pat’s problems since the campaign began, with his attacking troubles mixed in alongside defensive errors, one of which (showing Anthony Knockaert onto his left foot) led directly to Brighton’s winning goal.
With Pape Souare out injured and Jeffrey Schlupp having been turned primarily into a central midfielder by the boss this term, there remains very little competition for Van Aanholt at left-back which is rather concerning given his woeful recent form. We as supporters have no idea of what goes on in training from day to day or for that matter what is happening inside Pat’s head of late but from the outside looking in, it’s clear to see that the former Sunderland man is far from the player he was in the final weeks of the 2017/18 season.
Can he or Roy Hodgson do something to turn around that slump, starting with this weekend’s trip to face Watford in the FA Cup Quarter-Final? You’d certainly hope so. Our fans want to get behind him, that’s always been the case but of late, his performances are making it difficult to feel anything other than frustration.
He’s already played close to 500 more Premier League minutes for Palace than he managed in 17/18 and will no doubt be wondering himself where it’s going wrong. It sounds counter-intuitive for a player whose primary role is defending but I can’t help feeling as though a goal would work wonders for his form. It’s no surprise that his overall game improved massively when he went on a fine scoring run towards the end of last season; he’s the true definition of a confidence player and as someone who’s always loved to bomb into the attacking third, it feels to me as though his lack of output is weighing heavy on his shoulders.
Watching him in recent weeks, you’d struggle to believe it was the same player who was strutting around SE25 against Leicester and West Brom last May, I know I’m not alone in wanting that Patrick back. Perhaps all it will take is for a goal to cannon in off his backside against Watford. Here’s hoping.