We're 4 games into our Premier League season and it has been a steady start overall. Given our fixtures of Spurs, Chelsea away, Villa and Everton away. 5 points from these games is good. If not spectacular.
Throughout these games mind there has been an ever present theme. We have been dog awful in the first half, changed it around at half time and then improved in the second half. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde springs to mind with Pards in the starring role.
It's certainly a strange case indeed and needs some explaining as to how Pardew works all week on his side, sends them out into battle, only to see them be useless, change the system and/or personnel around and then see us play to somewhere close to our potential. Monday night at Everton was a classic example. I know it's a game of two halves but that was something else. First half we were abysmal. We should have been 2 or 3 goals down and none of us could have argued, even though we had 2 great chances with Cisse's volley and the clearance off the line. Then Pardew brings Demba Ba off the bench, moves players to different positions, changes the shape around and we have changed into a completely different animal. So is this good management or bad management?
On the positive side of it it's good to know we have the capability to change things around if it isn't going to plan. Any team in the world can continue to perform when things are going right, not many can can turn it in the opposite direction after a mere half time team talk. Speaking of half time team talks, what exactly does Pardew say? It must be good. Last night at Goodison we showed what we are about and how we finished 5th last season. It was great to see. However the question has to be asked...why cant we start games like this?
If Pardew's half time team talk involves him kicking a few arses and laying down some blatant truths to his under performing team, then maybe he should start adopting this kind of mentality in his pre-match team talk. What's clear is whatever he is saying or the approach to the game isn't right and hasn't been working. Let them have it before a ball is even kicked Al!
Monday night was a cracking result in the end. Both teams were robbed by the officials on some level. The linesman made 2 clear mistakes as regards to Everton goals that should have stood. However, the referee blatantly cheating when he stopped play just to book a player when we were through on goal with 3 against 1 is a total disgrace. It was obvious he was 'evening things up' by denying us a goal scoring opportunity, as he was no doubt thinking he had just missed an Everton goal and if we went up the other end and scored, there would be hell to pay (in his eyes). Also, how he didn't think Anichebe deserved to be sent off for almost breaking Steve Harpers leg with his stoods up flying into an unwinnable challenge is beyond me. Harps pleading with the referee was misplaced. Not that the ref was going to send an Everton player off anyway.
After Maritimo on Thursday, we have Norwich at home and then away at Reading. Judging on how these 2 teams look I am expecting us to take maximum points. Whether those points will be won with a good performance all round is another question. This bad half/good half needs to stop now as it is wildy known, NUFC have yet to win from behind during Alan Pardew's tenure so far (which is shocking). So we cant rely on a strong comeback every week to take points. There is no excuse to consistently not starting well.
Another question is just what does Pardew do now as regards to his starting line up? He seems already confused and unsure of just what the hell to do from the off, so this Demba Ba from the bench performance will either make it clearer to him or confuse him even more. Time will tell.
My own opinion is still we need to have Demba Ba, Cisse and Ben Arfa has a 3 pronged attack with Cabaye in the hole and 2 holding midfielders. It is the only system we have seen that has consistently worked and that suits our players. The sooner Captain Colo, Tiote and Tim Krul are back is much needed as well. We miss them.
I havent a clue what team Pardew is going to put out from one game to the next and I don't think he does either. I am expecting a few more Jekyll and Hyde performances before he makes his mind up on the set way to go. A good performance from start to finish vs Maritimo and then Norwich will help him and will be much needed to get this season on track.
Howay the lads!