Writer Kevin Christie looks into the big talking points from the Tottenham v Newcastle clash on Sunday afternoon.
A match full of surprises and Moussa Sissoko & Ayoze Perez both have stories to tell.
Sissoko steps up
Billed as ‘the new Patrick Vieira’ during his time at Toulouse, Moussa Sissoko has been a victim of his own versatility since his move to Newcastle. Pacy and powerful, Alan Pardew has often preferred to use Sissoko wide on the right or in the hole behind a lone front man – with mixed results.
With Pardew’s half-time substitutions and Ameobi’s swift equaliser turning the tide in Newcastle’s favour, Sissoko assumed responsibility and put in an impressive commanding performance having moved into a central midfield role alongside Jack Colback.
With Ameobi and Cabella providing width, it worked wonders. Sissoko grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and put in an all-action performance – flying into tackles, breaking up attacks, carrying the ball forward and being a constant thorn in Spurs’ side. Perhaps the comparisons weren’t premature after all.
Fortune favours the brave
For the second week in a row, Alan Pardew made positive substitutions that reaped handsome rewards. Last week it was Ayoze Pérez who put in an impressive performance to help seal the 1-0 win over Leicester and this week both substitutes made a big impact when called upon. Sammy Ameobi netting his first league goal for the club and French international Rémy Cabella providing an inch-perfect cross for Ayoze to head home the winner.
It’s safe to assume that Neil Young wasn’t thinking about football when he said “it’s better to burn out than to fade away” but he couldn’t have captured the mindset of a Newcastle fan more perfectly if he’d tried. We will always prefer to see the team go all out for an equaliser and die trying, rather than tamely surrender by attempting to keep things tight and nick an unlikely equaliser.
The Newcastle manager has his faults and the stats show just how poor his side have been since last Christmas but if he continues to be brave and throw caution to the wind, Pardew may just win one or two fans over once again.
Ayoze repays Pardew’s faith
Having appeared as a substitute in all but one of Newcastle’s games so far this season, and put in a particularly impressive shift against Leicester last week, Alan Pardew was finally forced to hand Ayoze Pérez his first Newcastle start at White Hart Lane as Papiss Cissé succumbed to injury yet again.
The young Spaniard looked a little lightweight and struggled at times but his endeavour and enthusiasm are plain to see, his willingness to run and take players on provided Newcastle with a useful outlet as they looked to hit Spurs on the break.
The gap in quality between the Premier League and Spain’s second tier is massive and Ayoze still faces an uphill struggle to make the grade at St James’ Park but his excellent match-winning header (watch it HERE) will give him a massive confidence boost.
Left-back fetish reaps rewards
For some unknown reason, Alan Pardew seems to have a bee in his bonnet about left-backs. Over the past few seasons Ryan Taylor, Jonas Gutierrez, Davide Santon, Vurnon Anita and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa have all been deployed at left back at different stages – with varying results. This season, Pardew has alternated between academy graduate Paul Dummett and the young Frenchman Massadio Haidara, with neither having been fully convincing in the role. Like-for-like substitutions have become commonplace with one of the aforementioned full backs replacing the other on numerous occasions in recent months.
On Sunday, however, Alan Pardew’s sinister perversion finally paid dividends. With Ayoze Pérez having run himself into the ground, Pardew shuffled his pack and Haidara was called upon to play in front of Dummett on the left side of midfield in an attempt to nullify the threat of Spurs’ sub Aaron Lennon. It worked perfectly as The Magpies held on for all three points with Lennon crowded out of the game and Spurs fans left wondering why the nippy winger wasn’t introduced much earlier.
Dead Man Walking?
So, from having been in a seemingly untenable position in mid-September, Alan Pardew is not only still in charge at St James’ Park but his side have now lost only once in their last six league and cup games and have just sealed a second successive league win in difficult circumstances.
The tide of public opinion that had threatened to sweep Pardew away has abated a little and some positive results have bought him some breathing space but it remains unlikely that he will ever win back the support of the Toon Army.
Nevertheless, Mike Ashley has shown an admirable, if somewhat perverse, desire to stand by his man. Perhaps Ashley truly does believe that Pardew is the best man to lead the club forward or maybe it’s the small print in Pardew’s contract that is keeping him in a job – nobody really knows.
However, with Newcastle’s board having openly stated this week that a Top 10 finish remains the minimum target for this season, Pardew remains under huge pressure and needs a minor miracle if his side are to earn a place in the top half of the table.