Vurnon Anita – Forgotten Man?
Arriving with little, if any, fanfare the £6.75m acquisition of Vurnon Anita from Ajax turned out be Newcastle’s only senior signing of last summer.
With a glowing reference from Frank De Boer, expectations were placed on the Dutchman who was much praised for his technical ability and versatility. However, Anita has only made 17 league starts this season and since the influx of new talent in January, it seems that he has become a forgotten man on Tyneside.
Like many foreign players, Anita struggled in the early stages of the campaign to adjust to the pace and intensity of the Premier League. Gael Bigirimana was handed his first start for the club in the fixture at Reading ahead of him due to Pardew’s fears that he would struggle to cope with the tempo of the game.
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However, in the injury-stricken and gloomy winter months to come, Anita began to excel in a central role in the absence of Cabaye and Tiote. His improving performances were not being overlooked, despite the horrendous sequence of results.
In the 3-1 home defeat to Manchester City, Pardew labelled him as the team’s best player on the day. Fans will recall the exquisite volley scored away at Club Brugge as perhaps Anita’s finest moment in a Newcastle shirt to date. Along with the returning Marveaux, the Dutchman was one of the few bright lights in a torrid winter for the club.
Despite this noticeable upturn in his performances, the return of Cabaye and Tiote from injury and the African Cup of Nations respectively, saw Anita relegated to the substitutes’ bench once again. The signing of Moussa Sissoko seems to have pushed him further down the pecking order. Even utility man James Perch seems to be ahead of him, judging by recent fixtures. Since the turn of the year, Anita has only made five league starts and his diminished role in Pardew’s plans doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon.
While he was never likely to become a fan favourite such as Ben Arfa or Cabaye, it’s baffling to see a player like Anita constantly on the sidelines when the team has been lacking composure in possession all season long. Industrious and comfortable on the ball, he seems the most logical replacement for Tiote in the first eleven.
With the Ivorian’s slump in form this season, maybe Anita even deserves to have been promoted to a starting spot. However, standing at a diminutive 5’5, perhaps he lacks the stature to truly be a combative defensive midfielder, especially in such a physical league.
Maybe he is an unfortunate victim of Pardew’s frustrating reliance on the long ball.
It is safe to say that Anita has not had the impact everyone hoped for this season.
However, it is very debatable whether a player of his ability deserves to have become such a forgotten figure at the club.
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