Sunderland manager David Moyes could not quell intrigue over Patrick van Aanholt’s surprise omission from the 1-0 Premier League defeat at Tottenham, stating the full-back was left out due to “medical reasons”.
Van Aanholt was initially named in the starting XI to face Mauricio Pocehttino’s team at White Hart Lane, but was withdrawn before kick-off as Jason Denayer came in for a full-debut.
Television footage appeared to show a discussion between Van Aanholt and Denayer during the warm-up where both players seemed to express confusion.
“For medical reasons, we chose to withdraw Pat,” Moyes told Sky Sports during a terse interview where he neglected to answer a follow-up question of Van Aanholt’s situation.
At his post-match news conference, Moyes expanded slightly after offering the same excuse for leaving out the Netherlands international.
“It was a medical decision and that’s all we’re saying at the moment,” he said.
“I would always like to be straight but I’m giving what the best answer is.”
Denayer and his defensive colleagues were given a thorough working over by Tottenham, who failed to score from 19 first-half shots but broke the deadlock in the 59th minute through Harry Kane.
It means Sunderland – who had Adnan Januzaj sent off for a second booking in the final minute – remain winless from five matches, with only Stoke City below them on goal difference in the Premier League table.
Although Moyes recognised an improvement from Monday’s chastening 3-0 home loss to Everton, he conceded his team were second best.
“We had to hang on for a long time in the game,” he said on Sky. “I wanted us to play much better but Tottenham’s quality forced us to be the way we were.
“We found it tough against them, we hung in, we made some chances ourselves.
“I think possibly the best chance of the game was for Steven Pienaar in the first half.
“We went down to 10 men and it was tougher then but we still tried to make a chance or two.
“It was a tough game for us, Tottenham had most of the ball. We had to defend for long periods but at least we gave ourselves a chance of winning it – we were never out of the game today.”
Moyes added: “I think we got improvements [from the Everton match], as much as we kept in it but I’m still trying to see better play with the ball, I’m trying to see us being more aggressive when we have it.
“But we’re just at the start. We’ve got to start picking up some points. It’s the start of a long journey and we’re hopeful we’ll get better.”