Ba and Cisse Have Never Been A Perfect Fit
An outsider looking in may see dropping an enormously talented – though, admittedly (currently) goal-shy – striker as a negative move. The truth is quite the opposite. Ba and Cissé haven’t ever complemented each other to great effect for club or country and there is a growing belief that they are too similar to prosper in unison.
Placing them in direct competition with one another for the central striking role may just shake them out of their lethargy and reinvigorate them, while simultaneously allowing Pardew to remind everybody that he is in control and is not afraid to make big decisions.
There is a sneaking suspicion in some quarters that a leopard can never change its spots and that this team are merely a reflection of their manager; over-confident, smug and believing their own hype after confounding all their critics last time out and finishing the season in an impressive 5th place. To be fair to Pardew, however, he has handled himself impeccably since being installed as manager in December 2010 against a backdrop of bewilderment and incredulity. Replacing somebody as popular as Chris Hughton was always going to be a tough task and he has passed the test with flying colours; fine-tuning a functional side and gradually encouraging them to play with more flair and flamboyance.
Having under-performed at Charlton and then been sacked by Southampton in August 2010, Pardew seems to have learned from his mistakes. He cuts a more humble and well-rounded figure since his return to top-flight management. He remains self-assured and still possesses a steely determination but the brash and flashy over-confidence that seemed to characterise him in his days as manager of West Ham has been replaced with a quiet poise and a dignified belief in his own ability.
Pardew did a tremendous job last season as shown by the fact that he won both the ‘Premier League Manager of the Season’ and the ‘LMA Manager of the Year’ awards. Building on that remarkable achievement will take some doing but the ball is now in Pardew’s court. Sticking with Plan A in the hope that the glories of last season can be replicated is a dangerous ploy, while ‘fixing’ something that many people may not necessarily see as being broken is sure to raise a few eyebrows too…
Pardew had nothing to lose when he arrived at St James’ Park precisely because he had nothing; he was a forgotten man and expectations were non-existent. Now, however, he has it all and therein lies the problem.
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