Is Anthony Reveillere responsible for Sunderland's revival?
With Sunderland recording a third clean sheet in four games this past weekend at Anfield, against Brendan Rodger's Liverpool who are struggling for goals, Guy Poyet's side have seemingly found some sort or consistency, at least defensively. It was also the fourth time Poyet rolled out his new look defensive unit of Costel Pantilimon, Santiago Vergini, John O' Shea, Wes Brown and/or Sebastian Coates. But it is perhaps their newest recruit, Frenchman Anthony Reveillere who has come in at left back and who may - whllst not single handedly - have transformed the Black Cats as a defensive stronghold.
Rewind back to the fateful and infamous day of October 18 at St Marys, to which Gus Poyet referred to his side's performance as 'his most embarrasing moment in football, as a rampant Southampton demolished Sunderland 8-0. Gus Poyet took drastic action. Five days later, th Uruguayan moved to sign free agent Reveillere on loan from Napoli until the end of the season. Unfortunately, then followed another defensive calamity of epic proportions versus Arsenal the following week, otherwise known as 'a Brown'. Reveillere was named on the bench. Following the second shaming, Wes Brown and Vito Mannone were dropped in favour of Pantilimon in goal and Reveillere was drafted in at right back for the trip to Crystal Palace, with Vergini pushing into central defence. Sunderland were victors 3-1.
During the game, left back Patrick van Aanholt picked up a shoulder injury. A combination of injury and good fortune led to Reveillere being installed in the Dutchman's place for the game versus Everton with home comforts in mind. The Toffees were held by Poyet's men and there were signs that the Black Cats had recovered from their humilation of the previous weeks. With Van Aanholt now ruled out for three months with a shoulder injury, Reveillere was Gus Poyet's go-to guy.
When we look at Anthony Reveillere's career, his 10 year spell at Olympique Lyonnais was his making. Joining from Rennes in 2003, Reveillere, 24, was intially loaned out to Valencia before stamping his authority on a first team berth at right back for the French club. Reveillere amassed 286 games, scoring three times along the way. Internationally he has 20 caps to his name and a single goal. Making the move to Napoli last season, with his career winding down, what difference has the Frenchman made on Wearside? Reveillere has never had the most blistering pace, but therein lies his strength. He is an old fashioned full back, rare to venture down the flanks and prepared to sit back and defend.
Sunderland's next consolidation task was a trip to goal-shy Leicester City. Anthony Reveillere's contribution was beginning to tell. The former Lyon man made more tackles and interceptions than any of his teammates, with a passing accuracy of 77%, on the way to a 0-0 result. The Black Cats were now unbeaten in three, but with unbeaten league leaders Chelsea rolling up to The Stadium of Light next, that record would in all probability disappear. What Chelsea had not bargained on was a new found spirit in the North-East. Indeed the Blues were in the end fortunate to escape to London with a point. Lee Cattermole had one of his customary wall-like performances, outshining his more illustrious counterpart Nemanja Matic, but curiously his pass total and success percentage was surpassed by his teammate at left back, one Anthony Reveillere. In fact, Reveillere allotted the most passes of his entire team, with a success rate of over 80%. What the right back had lacked in defensive ability in this particular outing, he more than made up for in overall ball posession.
Defeat did come in their next game versus the in form Manchester City, though a defensive change in on-loan Liverpool defender Sebastian Coates coming in for Wes Brown could be held responsible for such a resounding 1-4 defeat. What was important for Sunderland was a response. After conceding 10 goals in their last two defeats prior to the City loss, there was a danger old habits could return. That repsonse had to come this past Saturday, in the shape of a trip to Merseyside and an out-of-sorts Liverpool. After a tame first period, the Mackems were forced to hold out resolutely for a goalless draw, but hold out they did. Again Reveillere was key on the ball in the defensive areas and only Jordi Gomez passed the ball more often than the full back. The draw meant that Sunderland were now three unbeaten on the road, but as documented, it was their third clean sheet in four appearances.
Since arriving on Wearside Anthony Reveillere has quietly gone about his work; Not flashy, not extravagant; but a hard worker. Gus Poyet has made a shrewd purchase in Reveillere when action was needed to shore up his tattered defence and though a veteran, Reveillere belies his age and non-existent price tag. Very quietly th French recruit has gone about his business udner the radar but to which has benefitted Sunderland immensely in a time of need. Moreover though his contribution has not gone unnoticed. The 35 year old has now kept a clean sheet in 60% of his appearances since arriving in the Premier League. Statistics which paint a truer, more vital picture.