We’ve now endured two games since John Carver was announced as our head coach until the end of the season.
Usually, if a new head coach/manager takes over at a football club you will see some kind of difference in tactics, performance, and often results.
I’ve given Carver the benefit of the doubt in the sense that I’ve waited until he got the job to judge what kind of effect he’s having on the team, avoiding any of the ‘The uncertainty around the club is hurting the players’ argument he used after the home game with Southampton.
I saw glimpses of football to get excited about during his interim charge, the first half displays against Burnley and Chelsea were to be applauded.
But then I also saw more than enough football to make me want to rip my hair out, including the respective second halves of both those games, as well as no-shows against Leicester and Southampton (albeit the referee did him no favours against the Saints).
Now he’s been handed the reins and the allegedly damaging uncertainty has been put to bed, so what difference has he made to Newcastle United?
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Oddly enough, the Newcastle United under Carver is both oddly different and yet strikingly similar to the Newcastle United under Alan Pardew.
First of all, I’ll give the guy a hand. He’s got the job he’s dreamed of having for decades. He clearly cares a great deal about the club and is very proud to own the position he has. He couldn’t stop smiling after the win at Hull and, for me, it’s nice to have that attribute in the bloke who’s running the team.
He also deserves more credit than he’s got in a few aspects. I remember seeing several posts on social media websites such as that he was ‘another yes man’ who didn’t have the guts to drop Williamson or Gouffran….
Carver dropped Williamson for the home game against Southampton, choosing to play Paul Dummett at centre-back alongside Coloccini, which is what everyone wanted. He only brought Mike back into the side because of an injury to Dummett during that game.
And judging by the absolute mare Willo had against Stoke on Sunday afternoon, I’m sensing that Dummett isn’t too far off that centre-back spot once again.
Then he took Gouffran out of the side and opted for Sammy Ameobi on the left wing. Which is another call that I saw many in black and white pleading for!
He’s also taken the shackles off Remy Cabella who has looked a different class since Carver took over, and hopefully he’ll produce more of the same.
He’s clearly aware of what the fans want, and is responding to it. Either that, or is just far more observant of poor-quality players than Pardew was.
Now for the not-so-positive stuff, and I’m going to start off with my biggest hatred of all concerning Carver right now: the absolute garbage he comes out with to the media.
Pardew came up with some real gold in his conferences during his stint at Newcastle. Blaming this, that and the other for failure to win games, score goals or compete in the league.
Not forgetting his blaming of the fans for Wilfried Zaha’s 95th minute equaliser in the 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace this season, classic!
But honestly, Carver makes me wince in disbelief more than Pardew did with the stuff he says.
After the game with The Potters, Carver said “I thought I was a genius” because of the decision he made to bring Obertan on, with the Frenchman having a key part in the goal to make it 1-0.
In my opinion, it was a good choice to bring Obertan into the game, I said myself at the time he’d be a good player to bring on because of his pace and more direct style of play.
However, his decision to take off a lively Cabella in his place over the likes of Sammy and Perez, who were both looking knackered, baffled me.
I just hope that Remy doesn’t think the boos that rang around SJP during that substitution were aimed at him.
But labelling himself as a ‘genius’ wasn’t half as bad as his comments after the January transfer window closed.
Now we’ve all heard of the “he’ll be like a new signing” comment for a player returning from a long-term injury, which is fair enough to some extent, if not a little over-used.
But to say that “Moussa Sissoko not being sold will be like a new signing” is breaking the boundaries of desperation!
Now on to the stuff that really matters, team performance. Has that changed at all under Carver?
I’d say it has, -ish. I see bits of play here and there that are pretty decent. The wrongly disallowed goal at Leicester was a beautifully worked counter-attack to put Remy Cabella through on goal, though this was likely to be down to the players’ personal exuberance rather than tactical implementation.
But the one thing that hasn’t changed, is that Newcastle United still wouldn’t know consistency if it punched them in the face.
The win over Hull was energetic, showed pieces of quality, and got us perhaps thinking that (alongside the players we have to return from injury) we could make a decent fist out of our next few games.
But then we couldn’t even manage to scrape past Stoke at home.
We should have been out of sight by the time Crouch equalised, but we weren’t, and the sheer frustration was once pouring out of the terraces once again.
Our inability to see games through is also becoming a real problem. Conceding last-minute goals to sides like Crystal Palace, Stoke and even Sunderland is pretty damn dire.
Yet we managed to see out the game with 10 men at home to the all-but-crowned league leaders, Chelsea? It’s infuriating.
I always do my very best to stay positive when it comes to Newcastle United, I see no point in relentless whining, anger when things aren’t going our way.
We have Aarons, De Jong and Ryan Taylor all to come back, who I believe can make a big difference to our fortunes.
Obertan and Abeid are back amongst the team and can hopefully emulate their form before their injuries. We could yet well push for 8th place, which is the absolute bare minimum we should be aiming for.
But if Carver wants people on his side, we need to be beating the likes of Stoke City at home.
We’ve got one hell of an important game to come on Wednesday night now, and Carver needs to have a pretty good game plan if he wants to overcome his former colleague. It’s going to be a very tough ask.
After all, Alan Pardew is the master of having Newcastle United lose games.
You can follow the author on Twitter @RhysMelhuish22