Verdict: Who needs Allardyce & who ever needed Patrick van Aanholt; Crystal Palace 0 Sunderland 4


That was some way to end a miserable two months without a Premier League win. Getting in the faces of a former manager who trotted off in the summer and a player who had declared his former teammates were crap compared with his new ones. Here's a few Sunday morning thoughts on Crystal Palace 0 Sunderland 4. 


Sunderland remain bottom of the Premier League but how tight is that league table now? Only two points separate the bottom six and, presuming the two Manchester clubs beat Leicester and Swansea today, there will the prospect of going into next weekend's clash with Southampton with another good chance of exiting the bottom three. 

There often seems to be a mental block at the Stadium of Light when it comes to the psychological impact that being in the relegation spaces affords. Sunderland have already had chances to leap up out of the bottom three a couple of times this campaign but failed to. It was a similar story last season. The impact of victory yesterday will not mean much unless David Moyes can find a way to build on it.  

Some have suggested that Sunderland play better when they're in the relegation mire. The forlorn hope that being in the bottom three brings, seems to generate the odd decent performance and once the squad reach the brink of departing their familiar territory, the pressure often gets too much and they slip up. 

But, when the chips are down, Sunderland turn up with a performance. And so it was yesterday, up against the former manager who departed for what would ultimately be no point whatsoever, and a player who had just moved between the two clubs facing each other and said his former team were nowhere near as good as his new ones. 

In truth, Patrick van Aanholt never struck us as the brightest of chaps. A man who is probably still startled by his own farts, the Dutchman left Wearside with many mocking Sam Allardyce's valuation and appraisal of him as a footballer. Yesterday he didn't do anything especially wrong, though he was barely in the game - hiding in plain sight as he has many times in his career. It was Palace's new left-back who fouled Adnan Januzaj for the free-kick which led up to Sunderland's first goal though - a neat example of his tendency to find himself stranded in no-man's land. He departed the field of play laughing and joking with his former teammates, seemingly sharing in their victory oblivious to the anger which was raining down on the Palace team from their own supporters.

Van Aanholt has always needed protecting - protecting from his own defensive naivety and from his tendency to switch his brain off when needed on the field of play. Sam Allardyce built a system to protect him last season. Jan Kirchhoff would sweep up his mess and Younes Kaboul kept him right during the game. Without their influence he was exposed at Sunderland this campaign as teammates were constantly pulled into the space he was supposed to be defending. It made for a right mess at times.  

And without him, and the entourage required around him yesterday, Sunderland's shape looked better. Sebastian Larsson and debutante Bryan Oviedo made sure they nullified livewire Wilfried Zaha down van Aanholt's former flank. Larsson nearly sacrificed his place on the pitch as a result of that mission - the Swede could easily have been sent off for two blatant trips on the Palace winger. For his part, Oviedo looked good and staked a claim to be one of the 'men of the match'. 

But from a Sunderland perspective, the afternoon's endeavour was summed up by three things. First, a second clean sheet without van Aanholt - coincidence? Probably not. Second, Jermain Defoe returning to haunt his former manager - the one who had argued his case for an England recall whilst in post at the Stadium of Light, then ignored him as soon as he got the national job. And finally, for the away fans who finally celebrated something on their travels after humiliating days out at Swansea and Burnley; and who made a point of singing that we don't need Sam Allardyce when we've got David Moyes - as the current Sunderland boss waved his players forward to the fans, the travelling support made a special mention of his name - and after the most difficult of transfer windows and couple of months, Moyes sure needed a boost. 

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