Forget the ongoing boredom on transfers and will they or won’t they. I would like to throw in a concern about our dynamic midfield duo and how they may react next season to opposition teams deliberately targeting them. There is little doubt that Cabaye and Tiote are superb players and the heart of the team – as a 2 in midfield they can dominate a 3 and win games and certainly if there is only 2 in the opposition midfield they win the battle every time.
However, towards the end of last season they were becoming increasingly targeted by the oppo (and not just O’Neill’s thugs) hoping for a reaction and a sending off. We all know that Tiote plays on the edge (which in many ways makes him the player he is) but I for one spend much of many games on tenterhooks waiting for the referee to lose patience with him and send him off. Many may think that he knows the limits within which to play, I cannot help thinking he got a little lucky at times!
Cabaye is a different case – normally calm and controlled, there were a few occasions when he lost his rag or played a bit of a cry baby when hit hard by the opposition thugs. He is our playmaker, our real quality in the middle of the park and hopefully he will learn to accept being targeted.
Is there anything Pardew can do? Well playing a 3rd midfield player in Jonas seemed a smart move, not only pushing Cabaye forward but also relieving the pressure on the midfield 2. In the absence of any type of midfield signing who is going to help out, I think that will be where Jonas ends up but he is the only one with the energy to do the job properly in the current squad – Gosling is disappointing, Abeid and the new lad are young and Raylor is not good enough for central duties.
Jonnie runs a walking and guiding company in the north of England. Visit his excellent website at Where2walk to find out more