It’s Not All Bad At St.James’ Park
Newcastle stumbled to another indifferent defeat at the weekend, leaving the season in somewhat of a lull. A reasonable start against the likes of Spurs coupled with battling draws against Everton and Reading, which were slightly undeserved, isn’t being built upon. Poor results have followed and the men in black and white have lost their last two matches – matches I’m sure we can all agree were fairly winnable.
Sadly it’s not just the defeats which are the problem but also the manner of them. Poor quality football has been served up, with flashes of inspiration from Ben Arfa the only thing to brighten up gloomy Saturdays.
I’m here to tell you all however, it’s not all bad! It’s not great…don’t get me wrong…..but it’s not the end of the World.
I was going to write this on Saturday after the game but being so angry and fed up I decided no one would want to read incomprehensible rubbish full of swearing so thought it best to have a calming down period. It has served a decent purpose because I think there are several factors in Newcastle’s performances and results which are easy to overlook.
First of all our set plays. We’ve not scored from a corner for a long long time and a combination of delivery and an absence of a cunning plan is a concern.
Secondly, Mike Williamson. He’s out of his depth at this level and he should have been replaced in the summer. His long hoofs upfield give away possession so easily and it’s very frustrating.
Finally, our formation and style of play concerns me. We aren’t getting the best out of our players as some are playing out of position and we aren’t playing to their strengths. Jonas being a perfect example of this.
These things being said, there are also other much more relevant issues to take into account. Our manager hasn’t been able to call on last season’s key players for one. Cissé is desperately out of form, Cabaye has been unfit, Coloccini has missed games through injury as has Tiote, both Taylors and Perch. Krul also missed the start of the season through injury which was certainly a big loss, as we didn’t have his calming and controlling influence over the back four.
If you took the spine out of any side they would have trouble coping with it, especially though when the squad is as thin as ours. Take De Gea, Vidic, Carrick and Van Persie out of Manchester United and they would struggle. The same goes for Chelsea if you removed Cech, Terry, Ramires and Hazard. The difference is that they have options to replace those players. We don’t. That is neither our manager’s fault nor the players.
The lack of form in comparison to last year of Cabaye, Tiote and Cisse is an even bigger issue. As a manager you can have the best tactics in the World, the best training schedule and dieticians too. If the players involved are out of form then it’s irrelevant what they practise. Sometimes they are just in a rut. Sadly for us it’s all happened at the same time and once again too much blame shouldn’t be piled on Pardew for that.
It’s also worth remembering that we have played more games this season that most of our mid-table rivals. The games themselves are tiring enough but the travelling and staying in different places every other week affects the players massively I think. As does the fact that most players will play with different teammates each time they play either in Europe or at home. As a consequence it’s difficult to build an understanding between those players. It certainly is something Pardew needs to address, but this is the price we’ve paid for last season’s success.
Fans were simply giddy qualifying for Europe, yet are perplexed at the consequences of that – a disappointing league campaign the following season.
If we look at Stoke last season and compare ourselves to them. They had a thin squad and the first half of the season looked like relegation fodder through poor performances. Once they had dropped out of Europe they improved dramatically. This is what I anticipate from Newcastle. At the end of the day we have to be realistic despite whatever league disappointments may befall us. We haven’t won a trophy since 1969 (as I’m sure no one needs to be reminded) so this chance to impress ourselves in a cup competition such as the Europa League should be embraced. Even if it means we may struggle domestically.
Anyone who thinks we are candidates for the top four is out of their mind, as are those who think we’re in a relegation battle. I’d happily settle for a mid table finish if it then means exciting Thursday nights at home and abroad. Last season was us at full tilt, at 100% producing our best. Through a combination of bad luck, inexperience in this situation and lack of form, we haven’t scaled the same heights.
Lets simply be realistic, enjoy the ride of European games and support the team and manager – even if both frustrate and exasperate at time. This is Newcastle United. It’s just how it is here…..
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Dai also has his own excellent blog which you can visit here and you can follow him on twitter @senor_sapo
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