Mike Ashley - The Cookie Monster?!

I dont care what Derek Llambias says, this 8 year deal for Pardew is still madness.

Derek Llambias has come out today and says, "You can't keep changing your manager because you have a bad run" Well, then dont....!!? Also, aren't you the man who had seen over the managerial merry-go-round of Keegan, Kinnear, Shearer, Hughton and now Pardew in as little as 2 years? Thought as much.

The only explanation I can think of as to why they have made Alan Pardew the only unsackable manager currently working in the world of football, is that they have stopped themselves from sacking him. It's almost like they have tied him down into this unsackable situation to stop themselves doing what they do best and making a ridiculous decision they will go on to regret. It's like they accept that they are pretty stupid at times and are capable of making ridiculous decisions that could cripple this football club...so lets just take those decisions away. You have to admire their honesty at least.

They have basically padlocked the cookie jar and thrown away the key, to stop themselves because they are incapable of resisting that sweet, sweet dough. Well the logical thing to do would to not buy the cookies in the first place. If you dont want to sack a manager...then dont!!! It's simple. Alan Pardew had 4 years left on his current deal. 4 years. Leave it as it is for Christ's sake.

What they probably haven't even thought of is what if a biscuit is just what the doctor ordered? What if the queen comes round and she loves a rich tea with her cuppa? Crap, can't get it open. Quick, lets panic into buying a shed load round at Tesco's. Hurry. 
To bring this back into reality for a second, what if Alan Pardew has created a situation that his employment at Newcastle United becomes unworkable? Then what?

"Derek put them in there..."

What if he takes the club below these top 8 expectations? What if he goes on Match Of The Day 2 again and says the word rape whilst grinning like a clever teenager? What if he decides to call the Toon fans a bunch of ****s in a secretly filmed conversation like he did with West Ham fans? That's the point isn't it...What if?

All I hope for is that there are several clauses within this new contract that would give the club a position of strength if any of the above were to occur, with him being relieved of his duties should it need to be done, without forcing the club into an unprecedented pay off. Even by our standards.

Here's hoping that Ashley is as clever as his Sports Direct empire would suggest.

I reckon that's how he lost all that weight. Padlock the cookie jar, the fridge and the pantry door! YOM YOM!

All the best Pardew. I hope you take us forward.

Howay The Lads!

(Comments welcome. Follow me on Twitter @ToonBano)

Pardew New 8 Year Deal Is Madness!

Derek Llambias has announced that Alan Pardew and his backroom staff have all signed new contracts tying them into the club for 8 more years. That's right, eight years!

First off, congratulations Mr Pardew, Carver, Stone and Woodman for your news. Second, this is absolute madness! What in God's name has Ashley and Llambias done now?! 8 year contract for a manager? This is unheard of for someone so new to a football club with such reasonable success. Its not like Pardew has won a trophy in his first year or actually qualified for the Champions League, as close as we came, is it? Lets also be blunt about this. This season hasn't exactly started off like a house on fire has it? We are yet to play well for 90 mins once this season with our manager being largely responsible for this. We only just got dumped out the League Cup at the first hurdle last night with a bit of a whimper and questionable managerial decisions. So why now?

Mr Llambias claims that 'stability' is the reason why they have made the move with Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger as examples of this. 
Llambias, "If you look at clubs like Manchester Utd and Arsenal, Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have showed that stability gives you the best platform to achieve success and that is what we want to emulate here."

Well I am not going to argue that. Stability is good for a club, especially with one like ours given our recent history. But what is plainly obvious is that the reason Ferguson and Wenger have been in a job for so long is because they brought huge success. It's simple. Success brings stability. Not some completely out of context contract. 

What is baffling about this the most is that Pardew had nearly 4 years left on the deal he signed when he took over from Chris Hughton in December 2010. So what's the problem? Wasn't this enough? What's wrong with seeing how he get's on for the next 2 seasons and then take it from there? If he has been highly successful, then give him a long term contract. But to basically 'guess' that Pardew will continue this upward curve we are on since he arrived and then reward that 'guess' with an 8 year deal is ludicrous.

Alan Pardew signing this deal has basically become unsackable. How can he not be? Will the club, for whatever reason, come to the decision to terminate his contract anywhere within the next 5 years say? No chance. Not without a massive pay-off. Which we all know the current regime would never sanction. What if Pardew fails this season? What if we fail to qualify from the Europa League group, get knocked out the FA Cup in the third round and finish in midtable obsurity looking up at the teams that have passed us by? We're already out of the League Cup first time of asking. This is ultimately the point, What if?

The length of this deal makes no sense, as a year in football is a long time never mind 8 years. The timing of this deal makes no sense either as Pardew had almost 4 years left to run on his current, sorry old, deal. It's not as if Alan Pardew has been linked with a move away from NUFC and there is a danger he could be snapped up by a bigger club. Was he linked with Chelsea? No. The Liverpool job? Not that I heard. The England job? Not seriously. All this deal does is give Alan Pardew the unquestionable safety and rock solid knowledge that no matter what he does, good or bad, he will not be sacked any time soon. He hold's all the cards. 

Now this may work. Having the breathing space of not having to worry about your job may inspire him. But in my opinion a manager having this type of mentality doesn't help the club. Derek Llambias mentioned Arsene Wenger. In my opinion, Wenger having the knowledge over the past several years that he was never going to be sacked made him soft and resulted in him making bad decisions. The kind of decisions he would never have made when he first arrived at Arsenal. You look at Arsenal up until the 2004 invincible team and since that season after. It's unrecognisable. It's trophy less.

Newcastle United Football Club has tied itself down into an untenable position should the manager's job ever become, for whatever reason, unworkable. Which is not just a massive risk, it's a totally unnecessary risk. What's the point?

The reasoning given is apparently stability. Well like I have said, success brings stability. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. It's not the length of a manager's contract. By this logic if Freddy Shephard had given Ruud Gullit a 10 year deal and he took us into Football League obscurity, refusing to leave his position of guaranteed employment, is that stability? If Kenny Dalglish had got his wish and continued to dismantle our top football club from top to bottom into a shadow of its former self for years and years, is that stability? If Graeme Souness had never have been relieved from his reign of terror of overspending, under-achievement and mediocrity for 5, 6, 7 years, is that stability? No it isn't. It's just continuous failure. Stability is based on having the 'right man' at the helm for years and years. Not just 'a man'. In my opinion, the jury is still out as to whether Alan Pardew is the cast iron, without a shadow of a doubt, best man for this job. He's certainly not 8 years worth of certainty. We will only really know after this season and possibly only after the next. By this time he will  nicely be into his 8 year deal safe in the knowledge that even if he is failing, even if he is underachieving, he isn't going anywhere.

All we can do now as a football club is hope. Hope that Pardew is a resounding success. Hope that he doesn't mess up what he has started. Hope that he doesn't take this football club to new depths. Hope that he doesn't do anything outside of football that may bring our football club into disrepute or unwanted headlines. I remember 2 pieces of bad publicity he received after making 'that' comment on MOTD2, as well as his bad press over what he called West Ham fans when he managed there (even though he was joking apparently). Things like this can happen. Hopefully such an issue like this may be resolvable within the contract if it were to happen but again, we're just hoping. It's also not known what contingency plans are in place in case things don't go as planned or even if Mike Ashley were to sell up and leave the new owners with a dilemma to face as regards to the manager they inherit, again, all we can do is hope on this one.

Basically, we have to hope that everything Derek Llambias and Mike Ashley have signed us all up to and are hoping happens...happens. Otherwise, it seems that Alan Pardew, no matter what he does from now on, completely unnecessarily and from no real desire from himself has the football club in Check Mate.

Here's Hoping!

(Comments welcome. Follow me on Twitter @ToonBano)

Two Big Mistakes Cost NUFC Last Night

So NUFC exit the League Cup at an early stage once again. The fact we have never won this competition in our history but have 6 FA Cups in the bag is remarkable. Given that this trophy is the easier one to win. But anyway, onto Wednesday night's game and two major decisions, or should that be mistakes, cost us dearly on the night. 1) The team that started the game and 2) the lack of change at half time.
Basically, the team that finished last night's game should have started it and to not change it right on half time was criminal. It cost us in the end as Man Utd settled the tie seconds before Pardew made his changes on the hour. It was too little too late.

The one thing I was looking forward to above anything else before last night's game, was the prospect of seeing Bigirimana line-up alongside his mentor and inspiration Cheik Tiote. I was genuinely excited to see the apprentice and the master take on Man Utd at Old Trafford to see how they got on. Instead what Alan Pardew decided to do was not play our most exciting prospect and play the distinctly average Dan Gosling. Seriously, what in God's name was Pardew thinking of? What possible reason could he have to rob us of seeing Bigi get another game under his belt as his rapid improvement continues? I was in shock. Then my shock turned into disappointment. To eventual anger. I swear, Pardew must do this just to wind me and others up. He must do. What other explanation is there? That Gosling is a better player? No. That Gosling has played better in the Europa League than Bigi? No. He is younger and has a lot more potential? No. Once again another ridiculous, illogical decision from Pardew that beggars belief.

Just to compound the ridiculous decision. Gosling turned in his predictable 'wasted chances, give away possession, unable to tackle' midfield performance most of us are sick of seeing. He then brings on Bigirimana for a token 20 mins at the end when we were losing and chasing the game...for Cheik Tiote. Sweet Lord.
The only explanation I can think of is that Pardew doesn't think Tiote and Bigi are suited to play together and he wanted somebody making runs into the box  from midfield. Well seeing as he had Vuckic in the hole, we didn't need a 'marauding' midfielder. We needed a player great in the tackle, comfortable on ball and can pick out a pass with ease. Gael Bigirimana in other words. Shocking.

There was another decision from Pards that was also a bit head scratching. He started James Perch, again, at right back when he has already shown this to be his weakest position. It's so weak in fact that during the Norwich game at the weekend he swapped Anita into right back instead of Perch after 20 mins. Not only did he pick Perch to start right back but he chose the natural right back James Tavernier in at left back. All of which we had the naturally left sided Shane Ferguson on the bench. WTF?! So lets some that up. We have a central player on the right, a right sided player on the left and a left sided player on the bench. Madness.
As soon as Shane Ferguson stepped onto the pitch the first thing he did was get the ball, attack down the line, took on the defender and delivered a perfect cross into the box for Cisse to head in. Simplicity itself. The kind of simplicity that seems totally lost on our manager. I don't know if he is aware of this but when we play a right footed player down the left whether it be Jonas, Santon or the awkward looking Tavernier, we do not get the ball into the box. There is no service whatsoever. The reason for this is quite simple. None of the mentioned has any kind of a left foot to deliver the much needed cross. They use it only to stand on, run with and swing a token gesture at the ball with. It's embarrassing at times and just plain ridiculous.

Finally, speaking of Papiss Cisse. What was he doing on the bench for 60 mins when Man Utd had put out a defensive line of youth players? If Haris Vuckic had shown any kind of form in the European games he has started then I could understand it. But he hasn't. The goal he got v Atromitos was a lucky deflection and apart from that moment, he has been awful this year its got to be said. Cisse was crying out for a goal before last night's game. He was hungry. You could tell when he came on. He managed to do in 5 mins what Haris Vuckic never looked like doing and that's stick it in the net. The one bit of play Vuckic had was when he turned in the box, but then placed his shot wide. It was never going in and it wasn't surprising. I've liked this kid ever since he came to our club but he hasn't developed as I thought he would.

If Papiss Cisse had started last night's game alongside Shola, with Bigi smalls in midfield alongside Tiote and Ferguson had gave us a threat and balance from left full back....then I would go as far to say we would be in the next round of the League Cup. It was clearly the team to start that game and what annoys me is that I reckon Pardew knew it. It wasn't a coincidence that he turned to these players when we were losing. He was confident they would get us back in the game. Well maybe if you had started them we wouldn't have needed to chase anything and you could have brought on players to make sure of the victory. Epic fail. Again.

So another cup exit for us to stomach. Another game ticks by this season with an uninspiring performance all round. Also, genuinely worrying to me, another game goes by when Alan Pardew has made blatant errors of judgement and head scratching decisions with his starting line up. If it isn't the players he picks, the positions he plays them in, then its the system he sets the team up in. He has yet to get it right ONCE this season. Not once. It's unbelievable. Literally in every game this season we have found ourselves needing to make changes to try and a) rescue the game, b) look for inspiration or c) try and look like a team that is supposed to be challenging for the top 4.

The Champions League looks a long, long way off. There is no way in hell we are going to finish above Arsenal or Chelsea. Not in this form. Not with these decision's being made by our LMA manager of the year holding us back. No chance. I've asked the question whether Pardew is out of his depth. As far as a top team is concerned I think he is. If we were still a mid-table club then what we have done this season so far would be acceptable. But we aren't. We have moved on from that. Thanks to Alan Pardew himself and the players we have. He fully deserved his manager of the year award last season, but does anyone tip him to win it this season? No chance. Maybe he needs to snap out of a small team mentality. Or maybe he just needs to start making basic, logical decisions with his starting line up. That would be a good starting point. I like Pardew. I like his passion. I want him to take us forward. At the moment he isn't doing it. So like any player, the manager needs to shape up too. Otherwise it will be an average season this year and a missed opportunity to establish ourselves as a top club again.

What's for certain right now is we are not going to end our trophy drought with the League Cup. Thats gone. (I have to say it was a ridiculous draw to get Man Utd away, but they were there for taking last night.) If we continue to treat the Europa League as a training exercise for the likes of Dan Gosling and Haris Vuckic to 'get games' then will we challenge for that trophy? Will we get out of the group? I am all for players on the fringe of the first team having a chance but it has to be within reason. They have to be good enough to play in the first team. Bigirimana, Marveaux, Amalfitano, even Obertan, play these players. I've no problem with that. They have quality. However the Gosling's of this world need to be back up to the back up team at best.

The season is still early and we have injured players coming back which is encouraging. Also the one positive from Wednesday night's game is Papiss Cisse looks to be back! Rejoice! I don't think it was a concidence that it was when Demba Ba was no where to be seen and the lad could breathe and lead the line alongside Shola. This suits him. As it does Demba. Playing them together doesn't work. Shola is the key. Unless we go back to 4-3-3...but I am not gonna start on that one again.

So let's hope we can gain some momentum built up with a nice tidy win at Reading on Saturday. Tottenham made them look average, so should we in theory. Then after that, who knows. What Pardew decides to do is a mystery to all of us from one game to the next.

Howay the lads!

(Comments welcome. Follow me on Twitter @ToonBano)

Bigirimana - The Next Big Thing

One thing and one man shone out for me on Thursday night's goalless draw with Maritimo, and that was Gael Bigirimana.
Now this lad is 18. He already has the canny knack of reading the game and stealing in for a tackle to break up possession for the opposition and start it for us. This is gold dust. What he also shows is pure coolness on the ball. He never panics. He always chooses the right pass and isn't afraid to get his head up and look for it. Again, for a holding midfielder, absolute gold dust.

I'm trying not to get too excited over this lad just yet as he is yet to play a full game vs one of the big boys but it is looking like we may have a quality central midfield player for years to come on our hands. The next Tiote you could say. In fact, I could say he looks like he has the potential to be even better than the immovable object. Not in sheer physical dominance but in technical ability and reading of the game.

When we signed this lad in the summer I just assumed we had signed a young player who will mostly play in the reserves and we will hardly see him in the first team. How wrong I was. Signing this lad for a million quid looks an absolute bargain. If this lad is in our first team in a couple of months or so week in week out, than I wouldn't be surprised. Hopefully Alan Pardew has come to his senses by then and we have instilled the 4-3-3 formation we all crave as our immovable plan of action, then this lad could happily sit next to Cheik in the middle of the park allowing Cabaye to get forward. Tasty.

It's still early days but I have to question whether he may get an England call up sometime soon. Let's face it, if Raheem Sterling can get a call up after a few average performances then why can't Bigi? He is more impressive and more importantly plays in a position that England are lacking. A strong centre midfielder who can not only tackle but play a bit too. Bigi makes Scott Parker look like the useless sack of brown stuff we all know he is. He even proves you don't need to throw yourself into tackles, taking yourself out of the game, to win the ball back. Read it, win it. Simples. Plus tying him down to England can only be a good thing before one of the other nations he qualifies for, his native Burundi being one of them, snap him up.

I may be 'bigging' him up too much too early but I can't help get excited about this kid. 

Cheik Tiote has an apprentice. May God have mercy on your souls.

(Comments welcome. Follow me on Twitter @ToonBano)

Alan Pardew - Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

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! 

Possible Solution To NUFC Set Piece Misery?

NUFC are arguably the worst team in the league when it comes to scoring via a set piece. We only scored one goal directly from a ball crossed into the box from a corner in the Premier League last season. That was when Demba Ba nipped in at the near post v Wolves on the 1st Oct 2011 which is a whole calendar! That is absolutely disgraceful. I think only Villa were worse with zero. It's got to the stage now where myself and fans now expect us to waste a free kick or a corner and then hope we pick up the second ball once it is inevitably cleared. It's not good enough.

Pardew at the end of last season admitted that our set pieces were not good enough last term and took personal responsibility for their failure and made it clear he would improve them this term. So far, he hasn't succeeded. The Villa game on Sunday was a masterpiece on how to waste every set piece you get. Pardew has come out and said as much after the game.
We hit the first man on countless occasions which is unforgivable. However, what is more worrying is when the ball does manage to make into the box, we don't even win the header, never mind threaten the goal. How can this be? The law of averages tells you that if you stick the ball in the box on enough occasions, you we will win your fair share. Is there a space time continuum in both penalty areas at St James' that we aren't aware of? Or is there something more explainable?

My personal opinion is we are failing on 2 fronts. 

a) the type of delivery.
We are constantly attempting to 'whip' the ball in at pace, with an in-swinger, for our player to hopefully glance into the net. It isn't working. Unless you pick somebody out absolutely plum, a whipped ball bending into the box is easier for the defender to not just win the header but to use the power on the cross to clear it sufficiently. Especially if the cross is an in-swinger bending away from our oncoming players, towards the opposition. Of course a whipped ball into the box is a dangerous ball to defend if the attacker makes the right run...which we are not doing. So seeing as this is failing every single time, we need to start dropping it into the box.

Back when he had Joey7Barton in the team, for all his faults, the one constant positive thing he brought our team was delivery from set pieces. Very rarely did he actually whip the ball in, but simply dropped the ball in for our biggest lads to contest over. The fact we had Andy Carroll was a major bonus, but the theory was spot. Once our player wins the header, he may not score directly, but what he did do was knock the ball down for Kevin Nolan to tap it into the net standing in front of the keeper. It was beautiful. Off the top of my head I am immediately thinking of the two derby games in 2010/11 season.

Nolan scored his first of 3 in the 5-1 mauling from an overhead kick in the six yard box, via a knock down from a corner. In the other game, he opened the scoring in the Stadium of Plight from a similar knock down, also from a corner. The set piece was our biggest weapon in that season. These days it is our weakest. So it has gone from being our strongest to being our weakest in 2 short years. We don't have Nolan, Carroll or Barton any more, but that is not a good enough excuse. The personnel may have changed, but the set piece routine shouldn't have. If it ain't broke, why smash it into to a million pieces to never get it back again?

Not good quality video; but quality goal.

b) the set up in the box.

The other problem that is clear as day to me is the set up in the box, especially from free kicks. What is this tactic we constantly use to isolate one player (usually Williamson) with one opposition defender and lump it towards him to head it back across goal into the pack of players? Has it ever worked? It's flawed in one major way. That is if Willo doesn't get a good enough contact, or even not win the header at all, then the ball just drifts out for a goal kick. Totally wasted. It makes no sense whatsoever. Talk about throwing all of your eggs in one basket. Pointless. 
Do ourselves a favour and keep it simple. Drop the ball into the box towards our strongest headers, win the header, have someone who can finish stood in front of the keeper and see what we can get out of it. It may not be pretty, but who cares?

All this is theory of course, plenty of teams whip balls into the box with success, but we aren't. So we have to look to change. To continuously carry on regardless over and over again for a whole year, hoping for the best with still no results is insane. Albert Einstein said it best when he defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". Never a truer word spoken.

When I look at Man City, I am not jealous of the fact they can spend a billion pounds on a team. You know what I am jealous of? It's the fact that no matter how much they spend on technically gifted footballer's, they are the best team from corners. The amount of goals they get from corners and set pieces in general is staggering. It's something I have noticed and the stats will back me up.

I see goals from set pieces as 'bonus goals'. Goals that don't require any necessary talent or have any baring on how good/bad your team might be. Just look at Stoke. Without their huge amount of goals they would be in relegation trouble. So considering the fact we managed to finish 5th last season, without any bonus goal's from set plays to speak of...just think where we might have finished. It's scary to think. We have to add these 'bonus goals' onto our tally to have any chance of bettering last season.

So moving forward. Pardew, his staff and our lads have 2 weeks together to work on our set pieces with the international break. We have to start getting back to basics. Coming up with fancy new techniques isn't going to work. You can't run before you can walk. Get back to simply dropping the ball into the box with our 2/3 top headers of the ball competing for it to either score directly, nod down to a team mate or flick the ball on into a dangerous area. Along with somebody, preferably Cisse, stood in front of the keeper to eat up any chance that may arrive. We have players who are good in the air so there is no excuse. Steven Taylor scored in 3 games in a row at the end of the 2010/11 season, so this excuse of we don't have the players won't wash. 

Just make sure whatever you do...win the header! Then the goals will come again.

(Comments welcome. Follow me on Twitter @ToonBano)

Is Pardew Out Of His Depth?

Is Pardew out of his depth? Simple question I am seriously considering. If he is, then that may go to some way explaining to just what the hell he is thinking at times. If it isn't the illogical team line ups, or the baffling substitutions, or the fact we must be the worst team in the league at set pieces which he is responsible for, or the total failure to strengthen our defence and actually weakening our forward line over the summer, than it's the pure tripe he comes out with that he expects us all to swallow in press conferences. 

Last year, on the whole, was brilliant. We went from mid-table also rans, to a top 6 side qualifying for Europe. We completely over-achieved. However, maybe that's the key word, over-achieved. Personally I think the players we have are a top 6 team at least and could quite honestly walk into most teams that have qualified for the Champions League, never mind Europa League. Cabaye, Tiote, Ben Arfa, Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse, Captain Colo, Tim Krul would all be worthy of standing on the pitch, pre-match, listening to the Champions League music blare out. Easily. So it isn't them that over achieved, so maybe it was our manager.

Last season went so well that we tend to forget where Pardew has actually come from. His CV isn't one of a manager who is at home in a top team, challenging on all fronts and competing in Europe. Far from it. Before taking the reigns at St Jame's Park, the losing FA Cup final with West Ham in 2006 was the highlight of his career. Ruud Gullit and Kenny Dalglish managed to do that here, just to put that 'achievement' into some perspective. The rest of his managerial career includes being sacked at West Ham after leading them to the worst run of defeats in their history, which worryingly included a first round elimination in the UEFA Cup and League Cup. Not being able to save Charlton from relegation, being unable to get them back up and being sacked. Taking over Southampton in League One, winning the Football League Trophy (nice) but eventually being sacked due to low morale in the club. How he got the job after all of this at Newcastle was at the time a surprise, but he has it all the same and has the LMA Manager Of The Year award on his mantle piece which nobody can argue with. I certainly can't because I made a nice profit on him from the bookies on that one. Nice work Al.

However, last season wasn't all perfect and rosie. There were performances, team selections and substitutions which really did leave you scratching your head in confusion. Especially given the fact at how bloody brilliant we were in others. On the 25th March this year we went down to West Bromwich to play a game on a Super Sunday in front of the Sky cameras. What we all witnessed was a sensational performance in which we attacked with speed, movement, skill, vision, penetration and clinical finishing. It was the birth of what all NUFC fans now know as 'the 4-3-3'. We continued this way of playing into the next 2 games v Liverpool and Swansea, where 2-0 victories came our way. Then inexplicably for the next game v Bolton we reverted back to the flat, narrow, ineffective 4-4-2 in which arguably the goal of the season from Ben Arfa rescued us from a 0-0 draw. Rightly, for our next home game v Stoke we went back to 4-3-3 and absolutely hammered them from start to finish 3-0, with Yohan Cabaye let loose in the hole in the starring role. This period in which the 4-3-3 was born resulted in a 6 game winning streak. We had seemingly hit gold, struck oil and all of us fans were loving it. We all had the same thoughts that this way of playing and system was going to be the future for Newcastle Utd and we were all behind it.

Unfortunately, the Stoke game on the 21st April is the last time we have seen 'the 4-3-3' as Pardew resorted back to 4-4-2 for the remaining 4 games. Where we would go on to lose 3 out of 4 and miss out on the Champions League. Myself and others can only explain this 'back to hoofball horsesh*t' was to try and please Demba Ba. As Papiss Cisse was stealing the limelight from him by being unable not to score. Whereas Demba was in a goal scoring rut & seen physically sulking on the bench when Cisse was scoring for us at Swansea. We all saw it. It was strange and seemed totally pathetic and selfish. Demba at the time had a release clause in his contract so seemingly the reason why Pardew changed to 4-4-2 with him up front was to try and make him stay. Pardew fell to his knees, skinned Demba's grapes and fed them to him in seeming desperation to convince him to stay. It was pathetic. 
Pardew is the manager and if he want's to play a certain way than the players should do it or otherwise, get out. Simple.

So, onto this season. This is the season that will determine whether we are genuinely a top team and whether Pardew is genuinely a top manager. We have to say, it hasn't been a great start. We have played 5 competitive games so far and haven't played well in any of them. The two legged affairs v Atromitos were played by our second team so this goes some way to explain the average, but just about good enough performances. We won, we qualified, move on. 
The 3 Premier League game's we have played are far more worrying. Pardew has lined us up in the dreaded flat, narrow 4-4-2 and it predictably hasn't worked. We managed to get the win v Spurs but this was down to 2 moments of class from Ba and Ben Arfa in what was an awful performance overall. Spurs should have won. We then went down to Chelsea and kept possession well, but didn't threaten Chelsea at all in the final third. It was poor, but they're good team so we weren't expecting a win anyway. However, yesterday v Aston Villa was the straw that has broken my back. It was pathetic. It was terrible. It was totally avoidable. Playing with Ba and Cisse up front with Jonas on the left and Cabaye suffocated in a holding role...DOES. NOT. WORK. It has never worked. It will never work. We all know 4-3-3 works a hundred times better so why aren't we playing it? Why? What is the explanation? Would Chelsea play this way with Hazard stuck on the wing? Would Arsenal play this way with Cazorla in a holding role? Would Man Utd play this way with Kagawa suffocated like Cabaye is and Rooney and RVP isolated with no service? Would they bollocks! So why do we? If it's still down to pleasing Demba Ba than maybe Pardew is out of his depth. Can't he handle players? He struggled with Tevez and Mascherano at West Ham after all.

We have a team that is good enough to finish 4th this season. I am adamant about that. We have players that could walk into most Champions League teams. So why are we playing like Stoke? In fact, we don't even do that because they play with wingers who get down the flanks and actually CROSS the ball to their 2 strikers. We don't. Jonas Gutierrez must be allergic to the by-line because he doesn't go anywhere near it. He is a work-aholic midfielder, he is not a winger. If anything he should be played at left back because that's where he spends most of his time when playing on the left. If you cant see it yourself, or believe me than this graphic below of where he spent most of his time on Sunday should give you a clue. Remember, we are at home against arguably the worst team in the league:

Is this a winger, or a left back?

I am hoping and praying this performance v Villa will finally hit home to Pardew that maybe this system he's choosing with both strikers up top, isn't working. We can't keep relying on Benny to come up with a piece of out of this world genius just to get us on the score sheet. I am hoping during this international break he gets the DVD out of 'When we played 4-3-3' and went on that 6 games winning streak at the end of last season to get it through to his brain. After all, it was him that introduced this style in the first place! Where is the logic in changing it? If it's to have 2 strikers up top to bully the opposition's defence, than it isn't working. This flat, narrow, ineffective, unnecessary, pre-historic, hoofball horsesh*t way of playing is a f*cking eyesore and needs to be stopped, immediately. Nobody likes it and more importantly, it doesn't work. What we want to see is the 21st century style of playing that worked so well for us, that all the other top teams in Europe play and that suits the top class players we have down to the ground. The days of Carroll and Nolan with Barton crossing from deep are gone. We've moved on haven't we? There is no excuses not to play this way. None. If the only excuse is because Demba Ba doesn't like playing Left Wing then there are three options a) Drop him, b) Play him in the CF role or c) Tell him to start the game at LW then have him and Cisse switch every 10-15 minutes or so. I would choose option c as this is what we actually did during the last couple times we played 4-3-3. It worked and Ba can have no excuses as he will have as much time up front as Cisse. The option of abandoning the formation completely shouldn't even be an option. If we line up away at Everton in our next game in the same way we have so far this season (plus at the end of last season when we lost 3 games out of 4) then I am afraid the question of whether Alan Pardew is out of his depth, may just be answered. No manager out there worth his salt would stick with this way of playing, especially considering it isn't working. Nobody.

It's not just the team line-ups and system's that have me doubting his mental health but the substitution he makes. Last year I lost count of the baffling subs he made, Benny not even coming on v Swansea when we needed a goal and creativity was a good one. Already this season he's at it again. Yesterday, when Danny Simpson came off injured he chose to bring on 18 year old Bigirimana and put Anita in at right back. When Sylvain Marveaux was sat on the bench and Jonas was refusing to get beyond the halfway line. We needed width. Sticking Jonas in at full back and allowing Marv to work his magic down the left was so obvious I could scream.

In the transfer market he has left us baffled. Not just the fact we haven't brought in a striker but the fact we sold Best and let Lovenkrands leave for free doesn't make any sense whatsoever. We have a weaker forward line than last season, with more games to play. How does that work? Plus with Raylor and Simpson injured we have a weaker defence. We needed a defender even before Raylor did his cruciate, never mind after. Illogical. The excuse that well Pardew isn't in control of transfer doesn't wash. He is the manager. He should be constantly banging on Llambias's door. If he was, he failed. If he wasn't, he should have been.

His press conferences make me either scream out loud laughing or with anger due to their complete boll*cks nature. I lost count of the gems he came out with last season. "I didn't bring on Ben Arfa because we needed a creative influence in the game" was a good one. After the transfer deadline day closed 3 days ago with no new much needed recruits he said, "I am sure the fans will thank Mike Ashley's ambition". Oh aye yea, we'll get right on that one. Not rejecting any actual official bids that came in for our players and not signing any news ones, screams of ambition. 
I wont go into pushing linesman. Like Pard's says himself, that was just ridiculous. 

Going onto the future and what this season may bring Pardew needs to wake up fast as he is suffocating our team full of top class players, trying to play in a way you would see down in League One on a Saturday morning. Which is, by the way, where his last job was.

There is no excuse or logical reason for the boll*cks we have seen at the start of this season. You can say we finished 5th last year so how can you doubt him?, but that was last year. Like I have said. It's a totally different animal this year. We have expectation. We have more games. The rest of the league know how good we can be and will try to stop us. This year will sort the men from the boys. If anything, all last year did was show us how good we can be and why we shouldn't have to put up with the type of Villa 'performance' any more.

Yes, it is very early days and it could be a lot worse but it should be a lot better. Stone me for having ambition and knowing what potential this team has. I have seen it. We have all seen it. We want to see it again and to not just have potential...but to fulfil it.

So for the love of God....Howay Man!