Pardew Tactics – Something Must Change Or Else What Is There Still To Love About NUFC?
Our steep drop in form post-Christmas has been pinned on the sale of Yohan Cabaye and intermittent absence of Loic Remy, claims which do hold weight, but also serve as an excuse for a deeper underlying problem.
The Alan Pardew tactics are often said to be functional rather than attractive, but just how functional are they? Our results over the past five months plus, and most of last season too, suggest they are questionable, to say the least.
Players thrive in a working system, exceed expectations. It should play to and enhance strengths of personnel, promote the collective, everyone knowing their role, with visible signs of coached team movement in defence and attack.
Also, due to the risk and inevitability of injuries, suspensions, even sales, it can’t be over-reliant on one or two individuals. Rotation is key and squad players should be able to slot in when needed, the focus being on the team and system, not individuals.
Again, the above doesn’t remotely resemble any sort of description our supporters would use to explain Pardew’s system. Basically, it’s a very conservative, counter-attacking set-up that massively relies on one or two, and has always been that way.
Some would argue it gets results and any side losing two of its best players will suffer a dip in form. True, to an extent, but there’s a major difference between a dip in form and half a season of relegation form, not for the first time under Pardew either.
The system also seems overly reliant on starting well, scoring an early goal, sitting back and trying to hit on the break, often unable to break down weak sides that don’t come at us, and becomes a redundant approach whenever we concede first.
Pardew doesn’t adapt to opposition or try and play on their weaknesses, either in pre-game prep or early enough in games that are going against us. There hardly ever seems to be an effective go-to Plan B there, if we do concede first, or a weak team sits back.
It seems stubbornly ego-driven to stick to an approach that might nick a win, but doesn’t in the majority of games. One that never puts a side to the sword, no matter how poor. It keeps opposition in the game and leaves us open to a sucker punch, constantly.
Far be it from the Pardew delusion of him playing attacking football, what the system is really set up to achieve is protect defence, counter when possible, nick goal(s), and in-turn results. It’s not even delivering at all in the defensive sense either.
We have shipped more goals per game this season than everyone bar five, all of which were in a relegation struggle. It’s inevitable the approach will fail regularly with a defensive record like that, because it doesn’t push up and attack enough to score multiple goals.
On to the predictability factor. This stubborn sticking to a set-up that hasn’t worked, means opposition coaches and teams know exactly how we’re going to approach the game and offensively set-up to exploit, something we never show signs of.
Pardew spends every press conference talking up opposition and it shows in every game, that his approach is based around defensively reacting to opposition threats, not the threat we pose to them. Against big sides, understandable, but it’s against everyone, home or away.
None of this criticism is anything new. These shortcomings crop up time and time again with Pardew. Summer signings should help, depending on departures, but I highly doubt it will make a noticeable difference and close the gap to the Europa contenders.
The problem isn’t players, it’s the utilisation of them. Without someone with the ability to get the best from technical personnel or willingness to abandon an approach that isn’t effective, just over-reliant on one or two, then signings won’t change a whole lot.
Players obviously have to shoulder some of the blame, but look at the approach and ask yourself, how much Pardew’s tactics, decisions, player and squad utilisation, etc, are responsible for the inconsistency and capitulation when we lose one or two.
Aside from anything else, if we are to resign ourselves to not closing that gap, so being mid-table every season, is the style of football enjoyable enough to make up for year on year of mid-table obscurity at best, with no desire for cup runs or Europa football.
To be perfectly honest, if we’re to begrudgingly accept that as our future, the least I expect, in fact demand, is we endeavour to play attacking and entertaining football, in a similar vein to the likes of Everton, Swansea, and Southampton.
Pardew should have used the last while as the ideal opportunity to change and look at playing a more attacking expansive system. For those that say he did in playing the 352, just watch those games again. That is not an attacking use of that system.
I wouldn’t rate Pardew any more than I do regardless. After three years plus, my mind is well and truly made up, but I’d at least have more respect for him if he did try to change it up, instead of sticking to his massively flawed, play not to lose, unenjoyable approach.
The tactics need changing drastically next season, but I don’t expect them to. Pardew is far too egotistical to do so and now that he’s been made virtually bulletproof by the board, ignoring a mountain of stats and reasons to condemn, he will stick to his way.
If this is the case, some would say we would almost be better off getting rid of our flair and building a side to suit – a squad of limited grafters to suit an extremely limited coach. It won’t achieve anything more than it did this season though, but will just suit Pardew.
Judging by the board’s latest mix of political white noise and ignorance, they’re happy to be survivalist. As for supporters, we need something, at this stage – anything, to give us some enjoyment or something to even like about a club we want to love.
For all the off-pitch frustrations that come with the club, if the football is entertaining to watch, fans have something to enjoy and buy into. Given the board’s stance, the football is now essential, non-negotiable. It has to improve or there’s virtually nothing left to love.
You can follow Keith on Twitter @nufckeithr
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