Alan Pardew Knocks Square Pegs Into Round Holes At St.James’ Park
There is one phrase that springs to mind when I think of Newcastle’s team last year; square pegs in round holes.
On paper, our squad is no doubt good enough to be in the top ten; similar to the likes of Everton.
Furthermore, no offence to West Brom, who performed exceptionally this season, but I don’t believe a single player from their starting line up would make it into our first team (minus on-loan Lukaku who is no doubt going to be a top class footballer). How then have they ended up eight points and eight positions ahead of us?
Further to Pardew’s ever expanding list of excuses (injuries, pre-season, Europe, language, weather, referees, playing on days ending with a ‘y’), I believe the major problem lies within player positions. There are two factors to explain this; Pardew and our current transfer policy.
Firstly, Pardew. Having a good first part-season and exceptional second season, has expanded Pardew’s ego somewhat. He has seemingly started to believe his own hype and through this attempted to ‘reinvent the wheel’, so to say. When I say this, I mean his reluctance to play people in the right places and instead played his ‘favourites’ in new positions.
I can think of countless examples of this so instead I will focus on a few standout moments.
One that initially springs to mind is Gutierrez at left back versus Sunderland with perfectly fine natural left-back Haidara left on the bench. We all know how that ended.
Sissoko too, a natural holding midfielder, has been deployed as an attacking midfielder ‘in the hole’ behind Cisse. This had initial success, scoring or assisting in his first four games. However, after these games his returns took a turn for the worse; one assist and no goals in eight games. Pardew, however, left him in this position.
Saving the worst until last Cisse’s deployment as a winger is almost laughable. Possibly thinking back to the successful role Demba Ba played in the previous season, Pardew believed he could improve Cisse’s play via a change in roles. I see no major improvement. On a number of occasions Pardew had players on the bench to fill these positions that were more suited.
However, in a way I sympathise with Pardew.
This is where the second factor comes into the problem; our transfer policy.
The way we now operate in the transfer market means highlighting potential targets and then playing the waiting games until they become available at a good price. This may be a profitable and sustainable method of operating the transfer market but how much does our squad suffer?
There is no balance within our squad; overloaded in certain positions with average players. For example our centre midfield has countless numbers of holding players such as Gosling and Anita who were brought in because of their value, yet struggle to get any kind of look in. One of these holding players, Sissoko, as discussed, is playing further up field. Consequently we lack depth in many other positions such as strikers and wingers. A lack of competition, I believe, has caused the likes of Cisse and Gutierrez to cruise somewhat through the season. There has been little other choice but to play certain players in odd positions; there isn’t a better option.
Both Pardew and our board must learn from last season. We cannot simply look into the transfer market for bargains – we must buy people in positions we need and strengthen where we are weak. Personally, I believe these three key areas are centre back, a winger and a striker (or two). Furthermore, Pardew must learn to drop his favourites and play a team that will work together, not one that includes the best names.
Follow Patrick on Twitter @paddygall26
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