Alan Pardew’s Christmas Calendar
After a tumultuous 2014, Alan Pardew clawed his way back from the brink of oblivion with six consecutive victories throughout October and November.
But with a disappointing defeat against West Ham and an uninspiring draw at Burnley, a run of fixtures including Man Utd, Chelsea, Sunderland and Arsenal during December will undoubtedly shape Newcastle’s season for better or for worse.
With the understandable anger and resentment towards both Mike Ashley and Alan Pardew after a 9 month run which bestowed Pardew a list of embarrassing records and statistics, it was difficult for fans to know how to react to an extended run of wins.
On the one hand past failures are easy to put behind you when your team starts to play to its potential with speed, creativity and guile. On the other hand, the past two seasons warn us that disaster is always just around the next corner. It’s also hard to forget the way Pardew blamed fans so spitefully in September, bemoaning them for being too loud after a draw with Crystal Palace and then for not being supportive enough against Hull.
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Pardew has always preferred a defence first approach with 4-3-3 often meaning 4-5-1; with wingers whose first job is to track back and a lone targetman striker whose job is to create and score without help. Whilst there aren’t many fans who’d choose this form of ‘entertainment’, Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce among others have found success with a resolute defence.
The problem is that since December 2013 Newcastle’s defence has been anything other than steadfast. Various combinations of Fabricio Coloccini, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Steven Taylor and Mike Williamson failed to stop Newcastle conceding throughout 2014.
At the other end, with maverick playmaker Hatem Ben Arfa frozen out, an attack featuring out of sorts Papiss Cisse and Shola Ameobi, was severely incapable of scoring on a regular enough basis to atone for any defensive struggles.
When summer signings Remy Cabella, Siem De Jong and Emmanuel Riviere failed to hit the ground running, whether through injury or lack of experience, the gloom thickened over Tyneside and it was hard to see how Pardew could continue any longer in charge of a club which couldn’t score or keep a clean sheet.
Yet halfway through October the defence suddenly reappeared and a new pacey attack was installed due to injury and lack of form.
With the flair and speed of a rejuvenated Gabriel Obertan and Sammy Ameobi, a wonderkid by the name of Rolando Aarons and the breakthrough of Ayoze Perez, goals were back on the menu. Victories over Liverpool, Man City and Tottenham followed and in the space of a few weeks, relegation predictions turned to dreams of Europe.
Five defeats would drag Pardew back into the firing line, but if he shows he has learnt from his mistakes and approaches games with an attacking attitude, he will go a long way towards winning back even those who were wishing defeat on their own side to see the back of him.
Beating Tottenham in the League Cup would see Newcastle into their first domestic semi-final for a decade and Pardew will be rightly lambasted if he obeys orders from above to disregard cup competitions.
Then on December the 21st Sunderland arrive at St James’ Park as Pardew aims to break a record breaking run of defeats against the enemy.
December is quite simply make or break for Alan Pardew. Another derby defeat or failure to play a strong side in the League Cup may be enough for another major protest from fans.
Recent results have protected the manager for now but eventually lives will begin to run out. The rollercoaster goes on….
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