Why Patrick van Aanholt has no future at Chelsea
Ashley Cole’s departure from Chelsea this summer means there is a left-back spot going free at Stamford Bridge. As the club looks for his replacement, many Blues fans will be hoping to see their 23-year-old left-back Patrick van Aanholt, who has spent the last two and a half years on loan at Vitesse, slot into the role, but it has become quite clear the player is not ready for a place in the first-team. Van Aanholt is a left-back who is still developing and improving as a player and has made great strides forward during his time at Vitesse. He would benefit further from another year in Arnhem, but reports suggest that is becoming increasingly unlikely and he and Chelsea may be rather reluctant to explore that avenue, while Vitesse already have his replacement in the shape of the Rochdi Achenteh, who joined from Zwolle in January.
The Dutchman will return to London this summer to discuss his future with the club after a positive season in the Netherlands. After seven years, he has played only eight competitive games for Chelsea and has been loaned out to four different clubs. The spell in the Eredivisie has provided him with great experience and a chance to progress at a high level and has even allowed him to gain a place in the Netherlands national team, however, it has made one thing clear: he has no future at Chelsea.
Turning 24 in August, Van Aanholt is around the age at which today’s young players begin to flee the Eredivisie in search of new challenges and further development. Kevin Strootman was 23 when he departed PSV for Roma, Christian Eriksen and Jan Vertonghen were 21 and 25 when they made the jump from Ajax to Tottenham, while Wilfried Bony and Luis Suarez were 24 when they left. All of those players left safe in the knowledge that the Eredivisie had taken them as far as they could. They had developed, starred and outgrown the league and it was time for a step up. Chelsea would have hoped that after such a time frame, Van Aanholt would be ready to make the step up to the Blues’ first team, but he is not at the stage to jump from the Eredivisie to the top end of the Premier League. Clearly a talented player, the Den Bosch-born full-back enjoyed an excellent 2013-14 campaign with Vitesse. He combines his pace and skill very well, bombing down the left flank and sending the ball into the box. While the accuracy of his crosses need some improvement, he created a lot of key chances and picked up four goals and three assists for his team in a rather tumultuous campaign for the club.
Although the attacking aspect to his game is rather impressive, it’s the defensive side which holds him back when it comes to his Chelsea future. As an attacking midfielder, Juan Mata was cast aside by Jose Mourinho for his inability to adapt to the style the Portuguese coach brought into the team. His lack of defensive work saw him dropped from the squad and subsequently sold to Manchester United. If that’s what Mourinho expects of a No.10 and will dispose of him with ease for defensive weaknesses, he won’t even give Van Aanholt the chance to shine. The Netherlands international is far too reckless in that position for a team like Chelsea.
He is very much an attacking focused full-back and his urgency to get forward sees him caught out at the back far too easily as he leaves the defensive line exposed. To be in with a chance of becoming a regular in the first-team of the London giants, Van Aanholt has to develop that defensive side of his game, and that won’t happen with an attacking team like Vitesse in an attacking league like the Eredivisie. He isn’t a complete bombscare defensively, it must be said. He has improved in some respects when it comes to tracking back. His tackling was much better this season than it was the previous campaign and he has been quicker to come back than previously. However, at 23, that side of his game just hasn’t developed quickly enough to show that he has what it takes to get anywhere near the left-back spot for the Premier League club.
It’s time for him to cut his losses with the west London team. The 5-3-2 system Netherlands will line up in at the World Cup this summer will benefit him a great deal. With three centre-backs, it means Van Aanholt will be given licence to bomb forward and play to his strengths. If he can impress against the likes of Spain, Chile and Australia, he might be able to gain some interest from England or Spain, where he would be used more effectively. Van Aanholt is a promising player with good potential and is still improving and as a more modern, attack minded full-back, he will go far in his career, but if he is to go the distance then his journey with Chelsea must end here.