Why This Man Is Rafa Benitez’ Perfect Player

At the end of last season Rafa Benitez played Vurnon Anita at left back and the Dutchman struggled a bit, but then he was switched to right back and he played very well and scored a great goal against Manchester City in the 1-1 draw at home.

And in those last few games of last season Vurnon looked excellent at right back and carried out Rafa’s instructions to the letter.

Vurnon was even called up for the Dutch squad in the summer and Daryl Janmaat wasn’t – and it seemed that Rafa had found Vurnon’s best position.

vurnon anita _newcastle_united_nufc_770

Vurnon Anita – now a key player at Newcastle

In pre-season Rafa played Vurnon all the time in various positions and he has done that in the first four games of the season and sometimes even on the right side of midfield.

Vurnon struggled there, but in the last two games he’s been back at right back and looked a very good player in that position.

Daryl Janmaat has not played in the last two games and Rafa explained after the 1-0 win at Ashton Gate yesterday why he picked Vurnon at right-back – basically because he earned his place there and the gaffer also talked about the game yesterday:

“I have to pick the best players for games, I thought Vurnon Anita did well the other day. I wanted to keep playing with him.”

“You also have this second ball to deal with too. In the end it was a good performance as a team, a defensive team performance.”

“Everybody tried to help. It was important to see everybody working so hard. It is important to be a team that attacks and scores goals.”

“But then at the same time you have to be organised and have team spirit to work and get a result.”

“For me it’s a good step forward in terms of confidence as well.”

Vurnon seems dedicated to Newcastle and you didn’t hear one squeak from the Dutchman about wanting to leave the club after we were relegated.

In fact he said he wanted to help Newcastle get promoted first time – and he’s certainly going to be an important player for the team and for Rafa this season.

He follows instructions well, trains hard every single day – and is certainly appreciated by the manager.

It seems his career on Tyneside has been revitalized since Benitez arrived at the club.

That cannot be bad.

Comments welcome.

69 comments so far

  • SUTTY1978

    Aug 21, 2016 at 9:52 AM

    Comment #1


    9SUTTY1978 // Aug 21, 2016 at 9:51 AM

    Can’t believe anyone thinks this current team would hold its own in the Premier League. No chance. If we played like we did yesterday against a premier league side, we would have taken a sound beating. The opposition in the Championship is poor but we are still managing to get dominated in every game we play.

  • toon22

    Aug 21, 2016 at 9:55 AM

    Comment #2

    I think the point is Rafa is turning around a once shocking team,its going to take time.
    Its a good sign if you play poorly and still win.

  • Ron Knee

    Aug 21, 2016 at 9:58 AM

    Comment #3

    Mark Douglas:-

    “Benitez really wants four players in before the end of a transformative transfer window.”

  • james589

    Aug 21, 2016 at 10:06 AM

    Comment #4

    So watching the highlights (admittedly all I have to go on) we still look extremely vulnerable from set pieces. And I don’t want to be overly critical of Sels but he is going to have to curb his habit of parrying the ball back into the danger zone if he wants to remain our first choice. Hopefully Steve Harper can teach him to catch 🙂

  • sparky55

    Aug 21, 2016 at 10:06 AM

    Comment #5

    toon 22

    the underlying factor to winning is games is playing well.

    If you play poorly and win you’ll probably only get away with that 2 times out of ten…it’s important we start playing well which IMO we haven’t been but are very slowly getting there.

    as mentioned before I reckon we’ll be in the top three and playing like we should by the end of september.

    Rather play well and lose the odd the game rather than play badly and win the odd game

  • JamesToon

    Aug 21, 2016 at 10:12 AM

    Comment #6


    Did you watch the whole game mate

  • SUTTY1978

    Aug 21, 2016 at 10:14 AM

    Comment #7

    James, look at Sels highlight on YouTube for when he was in Belgium, parrying into the danger zone seems to be his standard save.

  • SUTTY1978

    Aug 21, 2016 at 10:16 AM

    Comment #8

    James, unfortunately no.

  • The overrated Frenchman

    Aug 21, 2016 at 10:17 AM

    Comment #9

    Jail – (from a couple of threads back!) I get belted around the ears when I say I’d like to see more quality in our signings, because we’re in the Championship. Look, I get it, I really do. I wasn’t talking about absolute top drawer. Ritchie (for example) to me is a quality signing. Clark (for example) isn’t. If we are going to get another three or four players in, I just think that we should be looking at that Ritchie end of the scale. It’s not like we can’t afford the sort of fees we will have to pay. Of course, the (small to medium-sized) elephant in the room is Charnley, who still apparently holds sway in transfer negotiations, and is, as we know, a clueless idiot, so that’s a complication I’ll admit.

  • Ian Toon

    Aug 21, 2016 at 10:18 AM

    Comment #10

    Expatmag- Earlier – Spurs are spoilt for choice at RB. The London Evening Standard in recent days have said that both Yedlin and Trippier are available. Pochettino is happy for one to go out on loan and t’other to be sold. Yedlin, is a few years younger than Trippier and he would be a good acquisition.

    It seems Villa would be a major competitor.

  • Hail Wor Ashley

    Aug 21, 2016 at 10:30 AM

    Comment #11

    When it comes to Serls being “the best GK in Belgium.”.

    1) Hardly a ringing endorsement.

    2) Sounds like a line Rafa has just been fed by a scout that he is repeating.

    3) Puts Mitro’s scoring stats over there into context if true.

    Cup match not a priority for me, would play a mix of those needing fitness, fringe players and U-21s.


    Don’t know who is and isn’t fit at CB – MBabu/Good/Satka/new lad Findlay.


    Aug 21, 2016 at 10:32 AM

    Comment #12

    If he must play its at RB, I dont know why he is seen as a utility player simply because he will play anywhere hes poor everywhere else other than RB imo

  • JamesToon

    Aug 21, 2016 at 10:41 AM

    Comment #13


    No Sels I think does look nervy and dodgy especially from crosses and set pieces. I was actually at the Bristol game and I’d say overall we had the better chances and it was a deserved win. 1st half we were better, 2nd half Bristol had all the ball but tbh, I wasn’t exactly biting my nails as they never really broke down our defence, I was more worried about Sels gifting them a goal, none of their attackers really made an impact, yes we could have held the ball better and created more chances, but i thought it was a solid defensive display, everyone worked their socks off and the back 4 were brilliant

  • JamesToon

    Aug 21, 2016 at 10:41 AM

    Comment #14


    Agree re Anita

  • Ian Toon

    Aug 21, 2016 at 10:44 AM

    Comment #15

    Given the on -going uncertainties of who stays, who goes and who comes in it’s still highly likely that Jimmy Smith and a few others will have called it right. This was before the window opened.

    We do lack quality at present in key areas and Benitez is all too aware of the potential need to consider keeping certain players whilst also bringing some in. Talk of Janmaat going to West Ham suggests flexibility.

    Talk of blithely spending £ 100 million to solidify us in the EPL once secured is daft at this time. Sissoko has always been the player that Benitez least wants to lose. Negotiations are such that both parties could be faced with the option of him staying. I believe Benitez would welcome the challenge of integrating him back into the team.

    In truth none of us really knows what is dependent upon him going for us to be able to buy. We would just have to cut our cloth accordingly.


    Aug 21, 2016 at 10:47 AM

    Comment #16

    How was Clark at LB? From the radio sounds like he was roasted early on but grew well into the game? Though BBC Newcastles opinions are interesting at times

  • Munster Mag

    Aug 21, 2016 at 10:49 AM

    Comment #17

    Anita is a solid player with a great attitude. If he played right back from now on he wud be very solid. I agree with the 100 mill comment. If we do get up this team needs serious bucks

  • The overrated Frenchman

    Aug 21, 2016 at 10:55 AM

    Comment #18

    Hail@11. Pencil Clark in for that vacant CB slot. The ideal man to be in there for a low priority game. The lower the priority, the better suited he is.

  • Yo-yo

    Aug 21, 2016 at 10:56 AM

    Comment #19


    I’m not sure what your point is, if its that we have some incredibly over-optimistic fans then fair enough.

    The current team is only there to do the job of getting promotion.
    They are not playing Premiership sides, so we don’t have to worry about how they might play.
    I doubt an experienced manager like Rafa would try to start the current 11 in the EPL, and would certainly know very well that he would need major incoming transfers to build an EPL capable side.
    As for being dominated in every game we play – yeh like Huddersfield at home really ran us for 20/90 minutes. Give it time and for the side to gel, they are on the up, we need patience. It looks as if a lot of other top 6 sides in this league can all beat each other on their day, so being consistent is going to be the main thing that will get us to the top and keep us there – not win 2 lose 1 form… so time will tell. Glass half full just now

  • Hail Wor Ashley

    Aug 21, 2016 at 11:03 AM

    Comment #20

    The overrated Frenchman

    Yeah, could play him I suppose, just thought would be good to give one of those fringe players a chance, if nothing else to get a bit of exposure.

    Cheltenham are a League 2 side without a win so far this season, so such a team should be able to sweep past them.

  • Mister Tuff

    Aug 21, 2016 at 11:06 AM

    Comment #21

    I find it most annoying that certain posters post things which suggest they have known Benitez personally for years.
    Rafa does this, Rafa does that, Rafa thinks this, Rafa believes that, Rafa believes that.

    Even more annoying is the usual suspects were backing King Percy and then Wally brolly. And they now back Rafa with an assumed air of knowledge.
    Real fickle fans.

  • beefman13

    Aug 21, 2016 at 11:15 AM

    Comment #22

    The manager obviously like the lad, he picks the team its up to him, for me hes an ok squad utility player a bit like ginger pubes, still seems strange that we are getting plaudits for battling on like the light brigade against Bristol City away, our team on paper looking at the starting line up dosnt for me look like a team that is going to run away with the championship, so far i would give them a C.

  • jimmysmith

    Aug 21, 2016 at 11:15 AM

    Comment #23

    He does appear to be willingly dismantling what was largely a side that was although full of conspicuous talent, admittedly clearly less than the sum of it’s parts and building a new one with the goal of being more than the sum of it’s parts. The emphasis more on greater depth and balance, and greater spirit. It’s a big undertaking though to effectively transform two sides in two seasons, one to go up, the other to stay up, and to do it without pots of money to throw at it, when other clubs, not having been hampered by relegation, will have more to do exactly
    that. Almost every move we make in the transfer market in this and the next three windows will determine how well we do should we go straight back up. I don’t see much room for error, with the EPL clubs being so flush.

  • JamesToon

    Aug 21, 2016 at 11:18 AM

    Comment #24


    Clark was solid, it’s debatable whether he was better than Dummett has been in the last 3 games. He made 1 rash challenge and maybe got skinned once or twice, in the first half, but second half not really, he was quite reliable, distributed well, didn’t really get forward but Gouffran did and put in a shift, who maybe could have been a bit more direct but he did actually look like the Gouffran when we actually first bought him

  • SUTTY1978

    Aug 21, 2016 at 11:19 AM

    Comment #25


    It was in response to this question

    4jazzyp // Aug 21, 2016 at 8:53 AM

    Do you think as the squad stands, we would be good enough to stay in the Pl if we won automatic promotion this season ??

    You’re absolutely right that consistency is key, for that reason I do like the squad rotation, keeps everybody up for it and means that when we do have injuries then we have someone who is match fit and has had regular football to slot in.

  • JamesToon

    Aug 21, 2016 at 11:21 AM

    Comment #26

    On another note, Lascelles’ mother is a very nice person to talk to! Also saw the Aarons family after the game

  • OneAlanShearer

    Aug 21, 2016 at 11:21 AM

    Comment #27

    Toon22. My thoughts exactly. There are good signs all over the park. Some signings with heart and ability. Team defending and attacking at times as a team. Goals are coming. Considering this is virtually a completely new team I’d say we are heading in the right direction.

  • Ian Toon

    Aug 21, 2016 at 11:23 AM

    Comment #28

    Analysing the number of points obtained which has secured automatic promotion from the Championship! Points dropped is more of a key determinant. With three points for a win let’s hope we can be adventurous.

    At Bristol we were faced with a team of probably 6 players of 6′ 3″+ and Lascalles at the end won every header. It wasn’t pretty but effective. Team selection was spot on and probably our best defensive performance.

  • SUTTY1978

    Aug 21, 2016 at 11:28 AM

    Comment #29

    I wonder how Benitez is going to Shoehorn Mitro and Gayle into the team? He’s obviously dead set on 4231 so can’t see a way of getting them both in without ruining what they are good at. They are both best right at the top of the pitch. Gayle could play out wide but then you lose his biggest asset in his poaching ability and his ability to run off the shoulder of the last man.
    442 is the obvious answer but can’t remember Benitez ever playing that.
    I’m guessing it will be one or the other which would be a waste and a major disappointment.

  • toon kk

    Aug 21, 2016 at 11:33 AM

    Comment #30

    Rafa needs options to on the bench to change games and to cover for inevitable injuries.
    It’s not all about fitting players into the first team.

  • Ian Toon

    Aug 21, 2016 at 11:35 AM

    Comment #31

    James- I thought his thought process and movement on the ball was better than Dummett’s. Sels was nervous but the defence has not been settled. Give him time but Darlow in the cup and take it from there.

  • Small World

    Aug 21, 2016 at 11:37 AM

    Comment #32

    21 Mister Tuff // Aug 21, 2016 at 11:06 AM

    “Real Fickle” fans

    Carfeul some of them will claim to have know about Rafa and his ways, when he managed Real Fickle in the spanish 2nd division.

  • msk21dec

    Aug 21, 2016 at 11:47 AM

    Comment #33

    Di sciglio or darmian to replace janmaat i hope

  • JamesToon

    Aug 21, 2016 at 11:51 AM

    Comment #34


    yeah i agree much more positive body positioning. theres something about dummett where hes so negative with the ball

  • Shadow_Shearer

    Aug 21, 2016 at 11:53 AM

    Comment #35

    I see some people saying on they would rather us play well & lose, than play bad & win. Let me explain why this is the wrong attitude.

    Steve mcclaren every match last season said we played well but didn’t win, but if we keep playing like that we will be fine. Steve mcclaren got fired & we got relegated.

    Now we have leicester city scrapping 1 nil wins all season, & defying 5000/1 odds. It’s a no brainer!!
    If you can keep wining even when playing bad, you will be going places. We need to build the wining mentally. It is the mark of champions. How many times yous think Fergie pulled it off???

    One more point is, we may not be playing well, but if we keep winning while playing bad, the confidence will come out, & we will start dominating games with wins. It is a process. Each of the four games we have played, I have seen improvement in each game. We’re not firing on all cylinders yet, but wait till after 25 games. We will be playing alot better.

  • cyprus

    Aug 21, 2016 at 11:55 AM

    Comment #36

    Gouffran, Anita, Obertan, SDJ, Riviera, etc. were, unfortunately, in retrospect, failed purchases. This team, given spending (about eighth in the PL in last five years), should never have been relegated. How on earth we got in this mess nobody knows. From Ashley to the last fan. We have opinions, we ain’t certain.

  • magscar

    Aug 21, 2016 at 11:59 AM

    Comment #37

    Was at Huddersfield game and was disappointed at performance and result but early days and squad is in a state of flux.Had to miss Reading ( as away for week) and they won comfortably ( by score if not necessarily performance) hope there isn’t a message in there about my attending games but again it is early days 🙂

    Only seen highlights of yesterday and on those Sels ( like those at match have said) was again uninspiring – needs to sort himself out quick.

    Importantly from reports I have read our game management seems to be improving and that will be key in this division and has long been a problem for us.

    Looking forward to Mitro being available again and hopefully another striker, winger and LB coming in as hinted at by Rafa in 4 players on radar comments. They are needed.

    There is still a learning curve involved even though we were bookies favourites and Rafa and players had acknowledged that it would be a tough league. Nothing like games though to reinforce that assessment and point way forward.

    Once window is closed and we have some reinforcements and the potential outgoings either gone or having to knuckle down we should see the reality of the squad Rafa is building.

    The next games through to end of September ( Brighton, Derby, QPR, Wolves, Norwich,and Villa are real tests and how we come through period will give an indication as to whether we are the real deal or have miscalculated.

    What ever happens January will clearly be an important month to bolster or correct squad.

  • Rotonda heights

    Aug 21, 2016 at 11:59 AM

    Comment #38
  • cyprus

    Aug 21, 2016 at 12:00 PM

    Comment #39

    Well said, but:
    If you play well, yes, you may lose, however you greatly increase your odds of winning. Playing badly and winning is generally a rarity. It happens, like us when we ended fifth, but not often.
    Still, I agree with you. Let’s get out of this division by any means. And I mean up to the PL! 😉

  • Mister Tuff

    Aug 21, 2016 at 12:02 PM

    Comment #40

    small world – jib Jibberish will be on Google now checking it out.
    I can just picture him musing to himself
    ” Duh Wee -al Madwid, duh Wee -al Sociedad, duh ugg ugg cannot find Wee -al Fickle” Duh.


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