When Alan Pardew was appointed as Newcastle United manager in December 2010, unsurprisingly, eyebrows were raised.
As a player, Pardew was not exceptionally technical, but he had great workmanlike qualities. He was industrious in a fashion fans now recognise in players like Scott Parker.
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Thus far, Pardew’s managerial career has been steady, but certainly not outstanding. Having been sacked by West Ham and relegated with Charlton (though only appointed at Christmas when they were already 19th) in the 06/07 season, Pardew’s managerial ability is certainly open to scrutiny.
Highlights of Pardew’s career include his West Ham side’s contribution to the most memorable FA cup final of recent years (the loss on penalties to Liverpool in 05/06), and Newcastle United’s superb 5th place finish in the 2011/2012 season.
Perhaps what has been transferred from Pardew’s playing days into his managerial philosophy is the hard-working, yet unexceptionable manner, in which his teams are set up.
It is clear that Pardew works well with strong, diligent and direct players. Andy Carroll was playing his best football under Pardew’s tutelage. We saw Demba Ba flourish as Pardew built a team around him, and Cheick Tiote – when in form – has become a real asset in the centre of the park.
However, Pardew does not currently manage a squad of these types of players, which, really, should not be viewed as a bad thing. At the highest level flair players are crucial, and a manager’s ability to maximise their potential can take a good team up another level.
Just look to Martinez at Everton, for example. Ross Barkley has become the key man in Martinez’s Everton, with exciting players such as Deulofeu and Seamus Coleman given the confidence and freedom to express themselves. It is these types of players with real technical prowess, often the more lightweight players, who seem wasted in Pardew’s Newcastle United side.
Pardew’s first piece of business as Newcastle United manager was to make Hatem Ben Arfa’s loan spell from Marseille permanent. We’ve seen glimpses of Ben Arfa’s talent under Pardew, such as the Maradona-esque goal against Blackburn Rovers in the 2011/2012 FA cup, but the Mercurial Frenchman is inconsistent and often struggles to make the starting line up.
Pardew has even preferred the inexperienced, but more direct, Sammy Ameobi this term, despite the obvious gulf in class. Ben Arfa is undoubtedly the most naturally talented player in Newcastle’s squad. If utilised in a system that didn’t rely upon him to drop deep and protect the full back, he would be an asset to most premier league teams. Pardew should have the tactical nous to deploy Ben Arfa effectively.
It is these types of player that fans pay to see; yet too often Pardew has deemed Ben Arfa a ‘luxury’, and left fans wanting.
Even Marveaux has been frozen out, Cisse has lost form and Vurnon Anita, a product of Ajax’s famed academy, looks ineffective. Traditionally, these types of players have thrived at Newcastle United and been integral to the team’s success.
Just remember the likes of Asprilla and Ginola in Keegan’s entertainers, or Laurent Robert and Nobby Solano in Sir Bobby Robson’s top four regulars.
With Newcastle’s current crop of players it is impossible not to be concerned that Pardew is not getting the best from them.
When you think of the football that Pochettino and Martinez have their respective clubs producing, you only wander whether Newcastle United could do with an installation of Hispanic flair…