Vurnon Anita: Versatile midfielder who can dictate the tempo at Newcastle United

Majid Mohamed

Anita 300x225 Vurnon Anita: Versatile midfielder who can dictate the tempo at Newcastle United Newcastle United have secured the services of a very useful player whilst also weakening Dutch champions Ajax in the process. Magpies manager Alan Pardew will now be able to employ a variety of midfield combinations and formations after Vurnon Anita finalised his £6.7m move to St James’ Park.

Anita has won just three senior caps for the Netherlands so far but has represented the Dutch at various youth levels. Anita was unlucky not to be selected by former Oranje coach Bert van Marwijk for his final 23-man squad for Euro 2012 this summer despite being selected for the initial 27-man provisional squad. He was omitted despite impressive performances for Ajax as they marched towards the Eredivisie title.

Anita came through the famous Ajax academy and made his first-team debut in the 2005/06 season at the age of 16. He played a total of 152 games for Ajax, scoring on seven occasions. Predominantly a midfielder, he displayed his versatility playing at left-back and right-back as Frank de Boer’s team endured an injury-hit campaign last season. De Boer has frequently labelled Anita as an important member of his squad but eventually lost the battle to keep another key player after the departure of Jan Vertonghen to Tottenham earlier this summer.

The new Newcastle number eight favours a defensive midfield role, although he has more ability and passing range than Cheick Tioté, another Newcastle midfielder signed from the Dutch league. Pardew faces a selection dilemma (whether to drop Tioté) as Anita can complement the excellent Yohan Cabaye and form an impressive partnership, whilst also taking on the role that the Ivorian midfielder delivers. Although at just 5ft 6in Anita may lack the height of his Premier League rivals, his movement and ball retention can help him win midfield battles. The 23-year-old is not just a ball-winner but also a controlling playmaker who can help Newcastle build from the back and provide consistent supply to the likes of Cabaye, Jonas Gutiérrez and Hatem Ben Arfa. This should mean Newcastle can expect to have a more balanced and fluid midfield this season depending on the tactical choices of Pardew.

The acquisition of the Dutch international from the Amsterdam giants indicates that the Newcastle manager is willing to explore variations to the game plan of The Magpies after their impressive Premier League campaign last season in which they finished fifth. Pardew will more than likely explore the possibility of fielding Anita alongside Tioté and Cabaye in a five-man midfield for instance against tougher opposition or in away fixtures.

Anita covered a range of positions for Ajax last season but their return to form – Ajax were 11 points behind leaders AZ after just 12 games – coincided with the footballer of Antillean descent playing in his natural defensive midfield role. Ajax began their impressive run of 14 consecutive league wins following the defeat at home to Utrecht, with Anita at left-back. Following that defeat that could have ended their hopes of retaining the championship, Anita returned to midfield duty with devastating results for Ajax’s title rivals. Anita provided defensively stability, ball retention and helped de Godenzonen move the ball quicker and play a quicker tempo.

It certainly looks like the Newcastle scouting network has once again found a very useful player that can ultimately improve their team.

Pardew told the club’s official website: “He is an exceptionally talented footballer with great technical ability, which is exactly what I’m looking at in a player.”

Ajax manager De Boer told his club’s official website: “His departure is a loss for us. People are always talking about the past season, in which he played a big part in the series of victories that led to the championship. That is right. But even before that he was of great value.”

You can follow the writer on Twitter: @Majid_Mohamed

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