In the middle of another largely unwelcome ten day break (which could – in a vastly alternative universe where our once-great side showed the FA Cup the respect it deserves – be an exciting, eagerly anticipated fifth round battle), many of us ever growing hope free Newcastle United supporters are left rather dissatisfied, scratching our heads, perplexed by a deeply underwhelming and frankly concerning mid-week display against our former front-man’s new band of merry men.
Although a point at Selhurst Park is not a total disaster, the manner in which we held on to it, like a sly malnourished squirrel to the last of the autumn acorns, rings major alarm bells.
Two overtly defensive substitutes in the form of left back Dummet and holding midfielder Abeid sent out a clear signal that we did not want to win this game. Pards must have cracked a grin when arguably our most promising and creative weapon, Remy Cabella – a rare beacon of hope in recent weeks – reluctantly made way for the now second choice left back.
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And honestly I don’t condemn his (Cabella’s) abundant annoyance with this borderline cowardly swap, because that is not what our club is about. A three goal trouncing of Hull – although miles from the most convincing performance – seemed, just for a second, like the confidence boost we needed to kick on with a decent end to the campaign. If only confidence could be bottled in such a manner.
Carver clearly wants this job, and as a man-manager, and general character to have around the club, he is far from inept. What is becoming apparent, however, is that he just simply does not have the credentials to be our permanent manager – sorry – ‘head coach’.
Despite my supporting the decision to give the guy a chance for at least a few games back in January, it appears he’s shown decent personal attributes, but not quite the degree of tactical creativity or indeed experimentation needed to get the most out of this very promising squad of players. Perhaps it was just a one off, and the mundane mid-week mishap is an anomaly in our battle for a top ten finish. Let’s just hope so.
It’s a real blow that Siem De Jong has been ruled out for at least another eight weeks. His arrival back into first team proceedings would have undoubtedly been an enormous boost. A natural leader, with a great eye for a killer pass and the back of the net, our eleven are crying out for such a player. But once more, the seemingly inestimable wait has been further extended. Further disappointing is Moussa Sissoko’s mini-slump in form; he’s seemed a shadow of his former tank-like powerhouse self in the past few encounters. Let’s again hope this is a minor blip.
On a much brighter note, Rolando Aarons is returning to full training, and this, for me, symbolises the answer for the remaining game. It was back in October when the five game winning streak saw by far our most exciting football of the year.
Why? Of course many factors contributed, including a sturdy defence, yet the key stand-out aspect of our game: width. The long-awaited discovery of form by Gabriel Obertan, combined with the pace and exuberance of Aarons to give us a more traditional system of pace, width and provision for strikers.
Aarons only featured against City and Liverpool in that period before being cruelly ruled out by yet another injury setback, yet what he represented set the tone for our positive approach to the following matches.
Take Colback’s 74 minute strike against Stoke: in a far from enthralling contest, the introduction of Obertan (not to demoralise Cabella’s impressive 69 minutes) provided us with a direct, speedy winger whose simple purpose was to bomb down that right flank and get the ball into the box.
As if by magic, five minutes after coming onto the pitch, his drag back to Sissoko led to what appeared at the time to be the winner. Why Gabby was then ignored for Gouffran in Wednesday’s line-up against Palace is beyond me.
It seems the Godfathers of irony had a field day when the introduction of wide-man Bolase resulted in a marvellously crafted cross, placing the ball on a plate for the grateful Fraizer Campbell to bury a deserved equaliser.
Whilst I’m not recommending that Carver takes inspiration from Pardew, what might be of note for the Newcastle Head Coach is implementation of a system of pace and width, for which our side undoubtedly possesses the ingredients in the form of Rolando, Gabby, Ayoze, Sammy, Cabella, Haidara and even Manu Riviere – who will, I am convinced, eventually find his feet on Tyneside.
What’s more is that in Cisse and Perez, we have two strikers with an eye for goal. All they require is adequate provision.
Is this the long awaited answer to our current run of creative ineptitude? Perhaps; perhaps not. What is certain is that if something doesn’t change, and soon, the head coach’s role may not be the only thing John Carver sacrifices. He may be waving a more permanent farewell to St James’ if an ambitious and ruthless foreign head coach decides to bring his own back room squad.