As Andre Marriner brought an end to yet another St James’ Park nightmare on Saturday, a lot of fans begun to question who was to blame. Was it the players? After all, being paid tens of thousands of pounds a week must have a direct influence to their performances on the pitch. Was it the board? Lack of spending in the summer, leading to a European club in domestic free-fall. Could it be the fans? Alan Pardew quoted as saying they created a ‘negative atmosphere’ inside St James’ on Saturday. Of course then there is injuries. Where do we start with the old injuries excuse?
The real problem however lies with the manager and coaching staff of Newcastle United. Naïve and stuck in their old ways, Pardew and co seem content resorting to what can only be described as Sunday league tactics. This is solidly backed up with stonewall facts. Newcastle United top the Premier league long ball table ahead of the likes of Stoke, West Ham and Everton with just fewer than 17 per cent of all passes attempted being a long ball. For me this is inexcusable, as for one- we are not equipped for this style of play; players such as Anita, Cabaye, Marveaux and Hatem Ben Arfa were brought to the club not to play Rugby or Sunday league football but to play Football. Proper football. This style of football continues to be embraced by Alan Pardew with the all too common ‘Willo punt’ becoming a regular feature of the sides play. This style of play could almost be excused if it was effective however it is not. Shown through the simple fact that Newcastle United have yet to score from a corner kick this season despite having a number of players over 6 foot tall in the side. This stat alone makes you question what on earth the team are doing on the training ground all week. Playing top trumps? Comparing haircuts? Or perhaps more realistically, seeing who can kick the ball the furthest and hardest (my bets on Williamson). A point for which I do not feel the need to elaborate on is Alan Pardew’s decision to deploy Shola Ameobi as a right winger. I will leave that to you to think over.
Now injuries, where do we start with injuries? Yes Newcastle has had a bad run with injuries this season with a number of players being sidelined for a prolonged period of time. However can you honestly say hand on heart that the squad of players available to Alan Pardew on Saturday was worse than Reading’s? No. That indicates either an off day for Newcastle or a severe problem with player’s attitudes or tactics. If it was the case that Saturday was an ‘off day’ then I could take the odd poor performance it happens in Football, especially in the Premier league. However this is not the case. Newcastle United has consistently under performed in almost every game of this season in the Premier League. Crumbling to losses at home to; Reading, Everton, Swansea, Manchester City, Manchester United and West Ham United. In all of these games there has been little complaint at the final result. Even with two of the best strikers in the Premier League in Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse, alongside some of the best playmakers in the World never mind Premier League in Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye, Alan Pardew seems incapable of stimulating the right kind of performance out of the team. His constant flow of excuses from ‘injuries’ to ‘negativity,’ ‘lack of spending,’ and even lying the blame with youth players at one point is becoming a complete embarrassment to the club and the man himself.
It is as clear as day that this job is the biggest Alan Pardew has ever had or will ever have. He is out of his depth. It is all well and good finishing 5th with players such as; Cabaye, Tiote, Coloccini, Krul, Cisse, Ba, Ben Arfa and more all at the top of their game with luck going for you but the real test of a manager comes when the chips are down. It is his job to reignite the sparkle in Newcastle’s play and assign roles to players for which they feel comfortable. This does not include playing Papiss Cisse as effectively a lone target man and Shola Ameobi as a right winger. It does not make sense. It is not a case of lack of loyalty or stability but a reality check. Newcastle sits perilously close to the drop zone with a tough run of fixtures on the horizon. Something has got to give. I see their being three options;
1. We do nothing and allow things to continue as they are and risk relegation to England’s second tier, where we most certainly wont find it as easy to come back up as last time.
2. Alan Pardew has a major change in management, from tactics to his negativity which is dragging the players and fans morale to an all time low. Play to your strengths Alan!
3. We replace Alan Pardew with a new, tactically aware manager. A few suggestions for this may be; Roberto Di Matteo, Laurent Blanc, Roberto Martinez or even a return for the Messiah. (don’t take that too seriously now)
Whatever your views on the situation there is a mutual agreement that something must change at Newcastle United. The question is what?
Written By Iain Nicholson