Newcastle United look to be in contention for qualifying for next season’s UEFA Champions League. However, despite an exhilarating start to the 11/12 season, Mike Ashley should sack (yet) another manager to improve their odds, a decision which should inflict less discontent from the Toon fans than renaming their home stadium.
The Magpies collected 25 points from 11 games prior to their first defeat at the Etihad Stadium. A consistent lineup including exciting signings such as the 16-goals-in-21-games Demba Ba and French orchestrator Cabaye, not to exclude the impressive young Tim Krul, all contributed to an amazing lift in team morale and league position. However we all know that unless ‘accumulated fatigue’ and ‘injuries’ are not checked, you can’t play the same lineup for all 38 games.
Alan Pardew, like Harry Redknapp, does not like to make many changes in lineup. They too don’t make many substitutions; but the quality and squad depth of the two teams are incomparable. Sir Alex has long been an advocate of squad rotation. Not only does it keep your squad match fit, the competition for a starting place gets the better out of your players. Jose Mourinho is also known to be relentless in taking off underperforming players whatever the match time, if he feels his team could turn the match around.
At Craven Cottage, Newcastle forfeited a 0-1half time lead and ended up the match losing 5-2. (Un)fortunate for Fulham, Sidwell’s injury near half time prompted a change of formation from 451 to 442. With Andrew Johnson coming on and Bryan Ruiz making way for the defensive Chris Baird, Fulham’s gameplan was obvious – direct and counter. In spite of a dominating first half, the Newcastle manager made minimal, if any, tactical changes to deal with the new Fulham side and the less defensive Ben Arfa – albeit scoring his side’s 2nd goal – and Guthrie-Cabaye midfield were never ready to fend off the Cottagers’ desperate attack on away ground. Pardew only sent James Perch on in a less competent defensive midfielder position in place for Guthrie when the score was 4-1.
Recently at White Hart Lane, a first half blitzkrieg put Spurs 4-0 up and Newcastle United never looked like staging another 4-4 comeback. The less defensive Gabriel Obertan started on the right and Guthrie and Perch sit opposite to Modric and Marker in midfield with Demba Ba and new signing Papiss Demba Cisse leading the attack in an ambitious lineup. As expected, Pardew once again did minimal, if any, tactical changes before brining on the inexperienced Shan Ferguson for Obertan in the second half.
In both hammering results, Pardew completely overestimated his side and it was quite obvious he did not have a plan B. As a manager he might be good at maintaining a good relationship with his players but as a tactician, he has never looked like one capable of leading the decent Magpies squad into Europe. With less than 15 games to play, they still have fixtures against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City and if Pardew continues to be sluggish and slow, and in charge, don’t be surprised to see Newcastle eventually slipping down to the bottom half of the table.
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