Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughWorrying times for Pardew & Newcastle - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Worrying times for Pardew & Newcastle - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Worrying times for Pardew & Newcastle


Without question this was always going to be a difficult season for Newcastle United but for them to struggling down in 14th position and on a run of three successive defeats must come as a shock to even the most pessimistic of Geordies. Last seasons remarkable fifth place finish had sky rocketed expectations that they could go even further this term, in truth these expectations were always going to be beyond difficult to meet but for Newcastle to be closer to fighting a relegation battle than challenging for Europe must be alarming for everyone concerned with the club. Realistically though things were always going to be tough this time round, as it would for any side who punched above their weight in the manner that Newcastle did last season. Last time out the Magpies simply couldn’t put a foot wrong; every signing they made turned into a work of genius, everything Alan Pardew did seemed to turn to gold dust, their relatively thin squad somehow managed to go the majority of the season injury free and the Newcastle points collecting machine seemed like it would never end.

This time out though anything that could have potentially gone wrong has gone wrong. Qualification for the Europa League, Newcastle’s reward for last season’s superb effort has been the first problem that they have faced with this competition generating a fixture list that their small squad has simply not been able to handle. Alan Pardew has tried to rotate and rest players when possible but this brings its own problems as it has resulted in Newcastle losing that consistent team selection that made them such a strong unit last time out.  The Newcastle manager is almost stuck between a rock and hard place with the Europa League given that if he did not select enough first team regulars to win games in the competition then it would make last season’s efforts and success far less worthwhile. Thursday night European football has proven to a beast that so many premiership teams have struggled to manage, for example Stoke, Bolton and Everton have all struggled in the league having attempted to make a go at European football so Newcastle are not the first to find this difficult.

Playing in this competition has also helped contribute to an extension injury list which has seen Newcastle stretched to their bare bones; a far cry from the largely injury free run they had lost time out. Influential French midfielder Yohan Cabaye has possibly been the biggest loss with ex Lille man forced to firstly miss a large proportion of the start season, whilst just weeks into his return to the side he suffered a new set back which is likely to rule him out until post Christmas. Further to the loss of Cabaye Newcastle also currently have Hatem Ben Arfa, Papisse Cisse, Ryan Taylor and Jonas Gutierrez all on the sidlines, whilst Goal Keeper Tim Krul missed a lengthy spell earlier on in the season and top scorer Demba Ba has been battling niggles in recent weeks. All of these players were regular fixtures in the starting XI last time out so its no surprise to see how badly Newcastle are struggling without them, after all if you took six first team players out of any premiership side then their results would fall significantly. Luck has also run out in regards to suspensions, with Fabio Coloccini being ruled out for three games following an arguably harsh sending off at Anfield. The loss of Coloccini currently looks a blow to far with Newcastle losing all three games that he has missed, unsurprising given that last season and in the early stages of this season the Argentine has been an absolute rock at the heart of the Magpies backline. Further to this midfield dynamo Cheik Tiote was also ruled out for three games following a sending off against Sunderland, yes it’s hard to argue that this decision and that of Coloccini’s at Anfield were not warranted but last year Newcastle somehow managed to escape these decisions.

With all these injuries and suspensions considered it’s easy to see how things have started to slip but this is not the only problem that has affected results. Several players who looked in the form of their lives last year have struggled to reach anywhere near those levels this term, the most notable being Cisse and Tiote. Cisse in particular looks like a completely different player to the one who seemed unstoppable last year and his return of just one strike thus far compared to the 13 he scored in just 14 games last term highlights this. Although it should be noted that Demba Ba’s terrific goal tally has at least helped mask Cisse’s woeful form, however Ba scoring when Cisse is not only adds further fuel to the concern that these two Senegalese cannot fire together. Tiote’s fall has not been quite as dramatic however last year he was possibly the best holding player in the premiership where as this year he would barely make it into the top six or seven, couple that with the injury problems of Cabaye and you get yet further evidence of why things are going so wrong. It would not be an understatement to suggest that Tiote and Cabaye were the best central midfield pairing last term so to not have them firing has been a huge loss.

In the transfer market things have not gone as swimmingly as they have done in recent years with the likes of Vurnon Anita and Romain Amalfitano struggling to make a significant impact. This should not really be put down to the fault of anyone, more that Newcastle in recent seasons have been extremely lucky with players instantly taking to premiership football, of course good scouting should take some of the credit for this but it was inevitable that sooner or later the odd player or two would take a little more time to find their feet. It could also be argued that Mike Ashley did not significantly support his manager enough in the window, yes he should be credited for keeping key men at the squad but knowing the size of Newcastle’s pool of top players and the fact they were going to be playing a lot more fixtures this time round he maybe should have given Pardew’s achievement last season more reward.


The final issue has been that Newcastle simply have not been getting results that their performances deserved, where as last year there were games where they managed to scrounge out results even when it looked unlikely they would. Games against Reading, Aston Villa, Sunderland and Liverpool have all been games where the Newcastle of last season would likely have turned draws into wins. Last season they were a side riding on a wave of consistent positive results where as this term they are a side who have had their confidence battered out of them and regaining this confidence looks to be Pardew’s biggest problem, for these are not bad players that he possesses just one’s who look like they need a boost. Another problem is that last seasons shock factor is no longer present, teams now treat Newcastle as a team that finished fifth in the table whilst they are now far more aware of the threats of people like Cisse. Opposition are now much less likely to treat Newcastle lightly, with the Magpies now being viewed as an even bigger scalp then they were before last season.

So its clear to see that there is plenty of work for Alan Pardew and his players to do and unfortunately the injury problems are showing no signs of letting up whilst they also look set to lose Tiote to the African Nations in January, although Senegal’s failure to qualify means that Cisse and the on form Ba will remain with the club when it was feared they would lose both. Coloccini has now overcome has three match ban so that should see of a return of defensive stability that has looked lost in his absence.  Another positive on the horizon is that the Europa League will soon break for winter which will provide them with time to focus solely on turning their league form around. This article does hint that Newcastle’s success last term was a little down to good fortunate and whilst in some ways that is true, they have not become a poor side overnight and last seasons fantastic season was not an accident. Yes they punched above their weight for the majority of it and yes they did have their fair share of luck but this is still a team more than capable of finishing in the higher regions of the premiership. For now though they need to go back to basics and regain that formula that saw them fight out results in the early weeks of last season and Wednesday’s trip to Stoke presents a perfect a war ground setting for Newcastle to begin their fight back to the right path.

Matt Carter