It really is saying something when there are three standout contenders for the Premier League’s best player the previous weekend, and all three of them are defenders! With an impressive amount of 2-0 and 2-1 results last weekend, the goalscoring defender was clearly always going to reign as king – and on this occasion that person would be none other than Crystal Palace defender Patrick van Aanholt. The other two in the mix – Leicester star Wes Morgan and Everton’s Kurt Zouma (on loan from Chelsea) missed out on the most trivial of margins – they each played 94 minutes, while van Aanholt played 95! He helped the Eagles to a 2-0 win over Huddersfield – a result which saw the Terriers ultimately relegated.
It could of course be argued that the other two defenders did their job against a higher standard of opposition, with Zouma taking part in Everton’s 2-0 win at West Ham while Morgan featured as Leicester beat visiting Bournemouth by the same scoreline. Such an argument, however, would not only be disrespectful to Huddersfield but also overlooks the bigger picture of the 2018-19 season. Van Aanholt has tended to do this on a more consistent level over the course of the season, with his 37 points besting Morgan’s 25 and Zouma’s 26. Van Aanholt, quite simply, is playing possibly the best football of his career under Roy Hodgson at the moment, hitting a peak of form he only really managed during his days at Sunderland under Sam Allardyce.
Having arrived at Palace in January 2017 – a move which re-united him with then-Eagles boss Allardyce at Selhurst Park – van Aanholt’s beginnings at the club were modest to say the least, and while he still perhaps has not set the world alight as far as fantasy points go he is one of the more assured defenders in Palace’s squad. His pace up and down the wing can add a much-needed extra dimension to his side’s attacking options, and his good tackling timing means he is a force wherever he is found on the pitch.
Palace do have a tricky run of fixtures coming up, however – their trip to Spurs on Wednesday evening followed up by another day on the road at Newcastle on Saturday. They then have a home game against Man City before a third away game out of four, this time at Arsenal. This all adds up to ensure that April will be a testing month to say the least for Palace, and van Aanholt will need to be at his best if Palace are to avoid a bad run of results and potentially run the risk of falling into a relegation scrap at the worst time of the season. That hinges on those sides below them picking up plenty of points of course, and at this stage that doesn’t look too likely – but a few points from April will be seen as an achievement, and should secure their safety for another year.
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