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I was looking forward with anticipation to the return of Hatem Ben Arfa to the line-up against Fulham, as he is such an important player for Newcastle. If anyone is going to make the runs and proper passes to Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse, it’s Ben Arfa.
He did not disappoint on his return to the pitch, too bad it was cut short at 70 minutes. Though Newcastle had some very positive spells throughout the match, if it were not for a couple of brilliant Tim Krul saves, the result could have been a lot worse.
In watching the match, I could not help but feel that it was a microcosm of the season thus far:
The first point I want to make is about the way Alan Pardew played with the line-up throughout the match.
This is not necessarily a negative, as it can throw the opposition, however, it does leave one wondering if he really knows what he wants from his squad, and more importantly, do the players know what their manager wants from them?
Starting Ben Arfa on the left side was the first eyebrow raising occurrence. Even the commentators on ESPN (that is who covers the Monday night EPL games for us in North America), were baffled by the decision as everyone knows that to really take advantage of Ben Arfa’s missile of a left boot he needs to cut in from the right side. Throughout the first half it seemed the strikers and midfielders were running all over the pitch. Perhaps this was by design but it seemed chaotic.
Second point – Tiote continues to commit poor fouls and give the ball away at an alarming rate (I stopped counting after 6). The first half give away that led to Berbatov going in clean on Krul was horrendous. Then of course his foul to give Fulham the free kick leading to the go ahead goal is inexcusable. Pardew needs to re-evaluate Tiote’s role with the club. He is simply not responsible enough to warrant the minutes he is getting. In the 80th minute ESPN’s commentator stated as a Fulham player was pressing forward: “…he skipped past Tiote like he wasn’t there, looks as though he’s given up.” Hard to disagree with that.
Thirdly – The good and the bad of Coloccini. A brilliant header in the first half and a powerful strike in the second were unlucky not to have found the back of the net. His coverage on Fulham’s second goal was terrible.
Fourth – A continued lack of chemistry between Ba and Cisse (see Craig’s previous article Ba To Cisse? Not Likely!). Again, several opportunities I observed where Ba could have fed Cisse on a through ball. Of course Cisse’s lack of confidence continues, I know it would have been offside anyways, but Mr.Cisse, could you have at least put the ball in the back of net instead of hitting the bar to make me feel like you haven’t completely lost your touch?
To top it all off, the start of the second half was christened with the stat that in the last 60 games that Newcastle United has trailed at half time they have failed to win the match. Make it 61. Does this say something about the mentality of the club? Perhaps. There must be changes in January to ignite the fire that we saw last year.
Merry Christmas NUFC fans.