Saturday’s 1-0 loss at the Britannia Stadium marks Newcastle’s fourth consecutive defeat under Alan Pardew, who continues to serve his 7-match touchline ban. So are things really that bad for The Magpies, or might it be worth giving Pardew more time?
Following Newcastle’s abysmal form since Christmas, there is no doubt that some Newcastle fans are begging to see the back of Pardew, and you can certainly sympathise with the Geordie’s, who witnessed a worryingly poor away side struggle to create chances until the final quarter of an hour in Stoke.
Since 1st February loyal fans have had to endure a number of embarrassing scorelines such as 0-3, 0-3, 0-4, 0-3, 0-4 and 0-4. There is no doubt that this is not good enough, and the fiercely passionate fans in Newcastle have come to expect much, much more from their beloved club, a club which can easily be considered up there with the biggest in the country.
Unfortunately for Pardew, the Newcastle centre-forward, Loic Remy, has spent large chunks of the season injured, and the £20m sale of Yohan Cabaye did not come at a great time either. The team has played a total of 1072 minutes (almost 12 games) without the pair, and in that time has managed to score a grand total of 3 goals. So, evidently the loss of Cabaye and Remy’s injury woes are having a huge effect on the squad and on results, and when you consider the quality of the two, you might be fooled into thinking that poor results are all you could expect from the current squad.
Conversely, the Newcastle squad is littered with international names such as Gouffran, Sissoko, Cisse, Ben Arfa, Anita and De Jong, so what is the reason for the abomination since Christmas? Missing Remy and Cabaye is undoubtedly a factor, but it does not go the full length in explaining Newcastle’s dramatic decline.
Could Pardew’s 7-game touchline ban for headbutting Hull’s David Meyler have had an effect? Again, it would certainly have had some effect, and indeed most probably negative, but outside a good 9-game run leading up to Christmas, the current squad has only managed to take 64 points from 65 games, which contradicts the argument that his ban has changed their fortunes – rather taken things from bad to worse, I would suggest.
So maybe it is just Pardew himself? Maybe his tactical approach is just not up to scratch? This might well be a stronger argument, as it only takes a slight scratch beneath the surface to realise that his tactics are often transparent and easy to breakdown.
Take the most recent Tyne-Wear derby, a game in which Sunderland beat Newcastle 3-0. It is evident from the stats that Newcastle attempted to flood the middle of the park and ignore the flanks, opting for Shola Ameobi to operate as a lone striker. Poyet, who has haunted the Magpies as both a player and a manager, was easily able to halt any momentum Newcastle had by simply employing the experienced centre-half partnership of Brown and O’Shea, with Jack Colback sitting in front of the two, breaking up any Newcastle movement.
Moreover, both Moussa Sissoko and Hatem Ben Arfa were in the starting XI and are more than capable of exploiting space down the flanks and delivering something that Ameobi could get on the end of, but the two failed to make any headway down the flanks and were rendered uselss throughout. Pardew’s tactical approach is certainly questionable, and possibly the cause of the Toon’s current form, but Newcastle fans must not be too hasty in calling for his dismissal.
Having finished 16th in the English Premier League last year Mike Ashley, the owner of Newcastle FC, set initial targets of a top 10 finish for Alan Pardew. In light of this, Pardew’s initial wage and transfer budgets were set in order for him to achieve at least 10th in the Premier League.
As it stands, Newcastle sit 3 points ahead of Stoke in 10th place and 2 points behind Southampton in 8th position. Mauricio Pochettino, Southampton manager, is currently being linked with a move away from the St. Mary’s stadium, having received the utmost praise for his work done at Southampton.
In contrast, Pardew is also being linked with a move away from St. James’ Park but, instead, for the poor job he has done at Newcastle. Considering there is only 2 points between the two it would it not be harsh to write Pardew’s season off as a failure?
Obviously, Newcastle are a bigger club than Southampton and have come to expect more over the years, but the above table makes for interesting reading. Newcastle have the lowest new spend over the last 5 years of any Premier League Club, and when you consider the fact that have finished 5th in that time, and are currently sitting above the likes of Villa and Stoke, who have spent considerable amounts more than them, you have to ask whether the Newcastle management is really doing that bad a job. Granted, football is, and should be, about results. However, the game is becoming increasingly commercialised and for a club to net spend -£45,000,000 is quite an achievement for the board and management.
Furthermore, the end of the season brings a new managing director to Newcastle, Lee Charnley. According to Pardew and Chief Scout Carr, Charnley has an excellent working relationship with several of the backroom staff at Newcastle, and a new, fresh-faced MD, along with the money earned from Cabaye, could well mark the start of a transitional period for Newcastle Fc, a transition that could propel them from targeting a top 10 finish, to expecting Europe as a bare minimum.
Pardew’s position will undoubtedly come into question in the forthcoming weeks, as fans grow increasingly restless with the current situation. And as we all know too well, it is ultimately the fans that decide the fate of their manager. But it is important to consider the financial transition the club is experiencing, with a new managing director and money to spend this summer, Newcastle could well be on the road to recovery.