Mitchell vs Van Aanholt: Who should start?
(Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/ Getty Images)

Roy Hodgson was given a boost just before the international break when, despite losing Tyrick Mitchell to injury, the more senior figure Patrick Van Aanholt returned. 

The Dutchman saw his 2019/20 season end early when an injury sustained against Manchester United ruled him out for five months. What followed was an extended run in the side for the youth academy product Mitchell, who impressed with his opportunity. 

Mitchell has made six Premier League appearances so far this season and if it weren’t for his injury, that run may have continued and his senior teammate may have been looking at a place on the bench. 

When both players are fully fit, Hodgson may have a selection crisis on his hands and the left-back position will be tightly contested.

  • Mitchell has been a commendable replacement

After breaking into the first team late into the 19/20 campaign, Mitchell has looked unshaken in Van Aanholt’s position. The 21-year-old prospect had played every minute in every game prior to his absence against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Following suite in the success of youth in Crystal Palace’s 20/21 journey so far, the Englishman has played with discipline, having picked up just the one yellow card, and has also impressed with his defensive work. 

Winning 13 of his 23 tackles in Palace colours, Mitchell has been nonchalant in the Eagles’ back line. Against Fulham, he displayed an exemplary performance when he made two tackles, three clearances, blocked a shot, and most impressively completed 33 out of 36 of his passes (92%).

Keeping a clean sheet against high-flying Southampton, whilst keeping Manchester United and Leeds United at just one goal, are just some of Mitchell’s achievements so far. 

Given his age, Hodgson will be keen to continue giving Tyrick Mitchell the opportunities he deserves, and the potential that the left sided defender ensues is limitless. But, with the return of Van Aanholt, this may be more difficult than expected. 

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  • An indifferent return for the Dutch international

It was a return to the starting line-up to forget for the senior Dutchman, who was arguably the worst performer when Palace travelled to Molineux.

Though the Palace side as a whole could be put to blame for a performance that was error-strewn, Van Aanholt must be highlighted. The 30-year-old lost possession 11 times, won just one of his 6 tackling efforts and was dribbled past with ease.

Sloppy positioning and a lack of confidence was the story of the game for the returning left-back. Though, it must be remembered that it was his first game back, a player of his experience should not be performing that poorly. 

90min were scathing in their assessment and acknowledged that, “like Clyne, he was completely overwhelmed by the overload.”

However, Patrick Van Aanholt was quick to turn his misfortune around against Leeds the following week. The senior figure in Hodgson’s ranks registered an assist for Helder Costa’s own goal. His attacking abilities showcased his worth for Palace, but his defensive work was still missing.

Van Aanholt lost possession seventeen times once more when Leeds visited Selhurst Park, six times more than his sloppy display at Molineux. This is something of concern for the Eagles' boss. It will be interesting to see if the Dutch defender will be able to regain his past form, something that not many are able to do after sustaining a long term injury at his age. 

  • Experience vs youth

The two players in contention for a starting spot on the left flank of Palace offer two different roles. Tyrick Mitchell is a youth prospect with a profusion of hunger to perform well and fulfil his career, whilst Van Aanholt has already seen most of his career and thus offers maturity and wisdom.

Depending on the game situation, either outfit could be picked. Whilst the more experienced of the two would be better suited for games against bigger opposition, Mitchell will be better equipped to play against teams outside the traditional ‘top 6’.

Alternatively, keeping Van Aanholt in and around the team will give Mitchell a player to aspire to be. The veteran journeyman may play a significant role in mentoring the academy prospect to the standards he has achieved in his career. 

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Whether Mitchell or Van Aanholt start, Eagles’ fans will be content knowing that they are well equipped at the left side of defence. 

  • The verdict

No matter how you look at this selection headache, it is a tough call for either to start ahead of the other. 

The verdict must be made upon the circumstances of Patrick Van Aanholt regaining his past form, otherwise it would make the decision a straightforward one. Both players deserve opportunities in the line-up, but Mitchell should be given the nod over his senior counterpart.

Younger and hungrier, Mitchell has shown he deserves his plaudits early this campaign and, despite Van Aanholt’s return, he should not be dropped. The left-back position should be rewarded based on merit rather than reputation, and Mitchell has earned his merit.