What Everton can expect from Donny van de Beek based on his final season at Ajax

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The Dutchman had tough time at Manchester United but his numbers in Amsterdam provide plenty of promise.

When Donny van de Beek signed for Manchester United in September 2020 there was a huge wave of excitement around Old Trafford.

The midfielder had risen through the ranks at Ajax and arrived in Manchester on the back of two outstanding seasons in the Eredivisie and a Champions League campaign that put him on the European map.

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The 16 months that followed were a nightmare, however, as Van de Beek struggled to pick up consistent minutes and Manchester United’s midfield faltered.

The move was a disaster, but there was a reason that the Red Devils were willing to spend £35 million and there was a reason why the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid were heavily interested in the midfielder’s services.

And now, as the 24-year-old signs for Everton on loan for the rest of the season, the wave of excitement has swept through Goodison.

Frank Lampard confirmed on Monday that the Dutchman is in his plans for the match at Newcastle United on Tuesday evening and looks set to make his debut - whether that be starting or off the bench.

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But what exactly can Everton fans expect from Donny van de Beek? Based on his final season at Ajax, they can expect a lot.

Position & playing style

Donny van de Beek is introduced to the supporters at Goodison Park. Photo: LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty ImagesDonny van de Beek is introduced to the supporters at Goodison Park. Photo: LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images
Donny van de Beek is introduced to the supporters at Goodison Park. Photo: LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images | AFP via Getty Images

Since debuting for the Ajax senior side at 18, Van de Beek has moved around the midfield and shown his versatility.

After starting out under manager Peter Bosz as the defensive midfielder in a 4-3-3, he quickly made the progression into a more attacking role - firstly as one of the attacking midfielders in a 4-3-3 and then as the number 10 in a 4-2-3-1.

The attacking positions gave Van de Beek a chance to link up play in the final third and advance into the box, and in his final season in Amsterdam he played a pivotal role behind the striker.

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Versatility is a quality Lampard admires and Van de Beek could be deployed across the middle over the course of the season, but his strongest position would definitely be as the more attacking of the midfielders.

In terms of playing style, Everton fans can expect an intelligent footballer who does the simple stuff right and effects the game - he avoids anything unnecessarily flash but his influence throughout a game can prove vital.

There will also be a likeness to his new manager with the desire to run beyond the striker and get on the end of crosses - a key factor for his goals at Ajax.

Defensively, he is an honest and industrious midfielder brought up through the Ajax ranks to press - a quality that should inject energy into the rest of the team.

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Ajax 2019/2020 in numbers

During his final season at Ajax van de Beek was pivotal as his side won an Eredivisie cut-short by the pandemic.

He featured 30 times in all competitions, scoring 10 goals and assisting seven - including two goals and an assist in five Champions League games.

That equates to a goal involvement - a goal or an assist - just under every two games which is a similar level to Jarrod Bowen or Trent Alexander-Arnold in the Premier League this season.

In the league, the midfielder was averaging 2.07 shots and creating 1.93 chances per 90 minutes.

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An average of two successful tackles per game paints the picture of a well-rounded midfielder, equally capable of leading a press and winning back the ball as creating openings in possession.

At Everton...

AFP via Getty Images

At a side averaging just 1.2 goals per 90 minutes, Van de Beek’s effective link up play will have been the reason Lampard wanted him and it should be how he is utilised.

Depending on the quality of the opposition, the Dutchman could play either as a number 10 in front of two solid midfielders such as Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure, or in a midfield three containing one of those two and then one of Dele Alli or Andre Gomes.

If Lampard opts for a back three - as he did against Brentford on Saturday - then van de Beek could comfortably slot into a midfield two alongside a more defensive partner.

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Toffees fans can expect to see plenty of the midfielder in the final third, moving the ball effectively and arriving late into the box to latch on to any loose crosses.

And they can also expect a hard-working and promising young midfielder who will be desperate to get his career back on track.

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