Originally published in Give Me Sport – 14 April, 2016
Sunderland’s game against Norwich, this weekend, is a vital game for the Black Cats. A loss all but relegates them and a win could propel them to eventual safety, at the Canaries’ expense.
As it stands, however, Sunderland look to be going down and taking a host of mostly mediocre players with them.
Some players have stood out though, but have they stood out enough to catch a Premier League club’s eye?
PATRICK VAN AANHOLT
A rare spark of flair in a lacklustre team. The ex-Chelsea full-back has put in some impressive displays for the Wearside club and scored some fantastic goals.
Three goals, for a struggling side from left-back, is a respectable haul. It is his defensive side, however, that would pose the biggest stumbling block over a potential move.
Sunderland have conceded 57 – a strong indicator as to why they are sat in 18th. Van Aanholt has appeared in 28 of 32 games and so is clearly at least partly responsible for the team’s defensive frailties.
Sunderland are not shy of scoring – one shy of Stoke, in 9th – and so the team’s demise is in the defence’s hands. Teams are always wary of signing a defender from a relegated side.
Van Aanholt does have individual promise and talent that a Premier League side may look to harness and encourage. His performances may well improve playing alongside a stronger defensive unit.
The Dutch international, Lens, is another potential buy for a Premier League club.
The attacking midfielder brings flair and skill and has chipped in with goals this season – scoring two point-winning strikes against West Ham and Aston Villa.
He’s a hard worker and a pacey player who can bring the ability to beat his man with speed and skill. Sam Allardyce believes Lens has a lot to give and needs time to adapt to the rigours of English football before we can fully judge him.
Lens has international experience, achieving bronze at the 2014 World Cup, and has played for some of Europe’s bigger teams in PSV and Dynamo Kyiv.
His recent move to the Premier League and Big Sam’s suggestion that there is more to come from the Dutchman could mean Sunderland have every intention of keeping hold of their man. A mid-table club could, however, gamble on his potential and bid for the Black Cat in the summer.
At 33, the ex-Spurs and Portsmouth striker shows no signs of slowing down. With 12 goals in the Premier League, not to mention a hat-trick in the Capital One Cup, he is still as deadly in front of goal as ever.
Defoe will not want to drop down a league. He has scored the same amount of goals as Olivier Giroud and one more than Diego Costa. Clearly, he can still perform at the top level and will relish the challenge of the Premier League for as long as he can.
With the season not yet over, Defoe could potentially bag himself 15 goals for the season – a hugely impressive tally for a team fighting relegation. With those statistics on his CV, any club would snap him up.
The most likely candidate for his signature would be a freshly promoted side or a lower-table one – possibly Crystal Palace, allowing him to return to his native London and granting the Eagles a striker that they desperately need.
One thing is for certain, do not expect to see Jermain Defoe plying his trade in the Championship anytime soon.
Younes Kaboul’s Premier League experience could be sought after by any team fearing next season could bring with it a relegation scrap. His inability to light the stage up and sluggishness are unlikely to see him signed by a top flight club. It is possible, however, that we’ll see him depart the Stadium of Light and head abroad to wind his career down.
Fabio Borini is another potential mover. He has had fits and starts of form but never fully got going. He was never really applauded at Liverpool and hasn’t exactly ignited Wearside either. At 25, though, there are plenty of years left in him and a Premier League club could give him a chance to rekindle his career.