I’ve read a mountain of articles about Newcastle’s plight; who should be picked/dropped; who should be blamed....
One specific article claimed that blaming the new/old French guards is “lazy journalism”. I agree. Others are blaming individual players such as, Tiote, Elliot, Cisse, Ben Arfa etc. Let us ask ourselves, Where would we be without:
- – Ben Arfa during the early part of the season up until his injury?
- – The new French contingent’s and Cabaye’s contributions in January and February? Cabaye’s presence alone lifted the team when he returned after a lengthy injury.
- – Cissé’s string of late goals?
- – A string of vital saves by Elliot?
- – And so on…
Granted, our players haven’t performed consistently. We were dreadful for 90% of the last two home games. Our league position is ALMOST but NOT forlorn; our future is still in our own hands; we are not reliant upon others losing – AND…
When a ship is sinking, your first priority is to plug the leak; not have an inquiry as to how the leak came about in the first place.
The time for an inquiry at Newcastle will come as soon as the season ends. In the meantime…
I can’t pick a side to play at West Ham with the knowledge and insight that Pardew can. I don’t know the frame of mind certain players are in: for example, how committed they are or how self confident they feel. I don’t know how fit the likes of Ben Arfa, Colocinni, Tiote and Cabaye really are.
All I can do, the same as the rest of us, is reflect and pontificate…
- When we’ve brought in players who haven’t been playing in the first team regularly, they haven’t ‘stepped up to the plate’. I include: Gosling, Bigirimana, Amalfitano and Obertan. So I’m suggesting that starting with any of the ‘reserve’ players against West Ham is a big no-no.
- Even top players, who come back from long term injury, require time to become ‘match fit’ mentally, physically and emotionally. I’m thinking specifically of Colocinni, Harper, Ben Arfa and, to a lesser extent, Tiote (who does have some first team minutes under his belt right now). I’m not talking about commitment to the cause or overall ability. I’m talking about the time to get back to their best.
- There is something that seems emotionally/mentally/physically missing from Tiote, Gutierrez and Cabaye’s game right now. Maybe, like Colocinni, they are having off field problems or a lack-of-confidence-crisis; I don’t know. The only way to resolve such issues (in the short term, I stress) is to play through them. We all know that these players are capable of playing much much better than they have been.
- Sissoko is not having the same impact now as he did when he first arrived. For a start, playing him out wide is wasteful (as it was playing Cisse on the right wing for the first half of the season). Secondly, although not brilliant, he was still our best player against Liverpool.
- Cisse’s goal rate isn’t what it was but he’s still been scoring vital goals and ‘scored’ a further 5 goals, all mistakenly disallowed.
- When a whole team is playing poorly, it serves no purpose to single out individual errors.
- With regard to team selection, apart from replacing the defence, Pardew doesn’t have that many choices come the West Ham game.
So let me stick my neck out and suggest that Pardew should play the best players available, in a position they are good in….
1. I will pick Elliot before Harper but this is more of a gut feel decision than logic. Harper will give 100% and I think Elliot will too. Harper technically was a better goalie. Elliot has played very well in some games and made some telling saves.
2. I’d pick Anita at right back. I feel that’s his best position. He’s alert, quick, gets up and down the wing and is much better at crossing and getting in the right position than Simpson (who for me is a solid-ish defender).
3. Despite what I said earlier, if he’s physically fit, I’d pick Colocinni to partner Taylor. Taylor hasn’t been at his best recently but he will give 100% and we’ll need his physical presence to ward off Carroll. I’m enthusiastic about Mbiwa, he’s showing signs of being a top player, AND (like Colo and Enqrique) it’s gonna take him a season or two to adjust. Williamson will do what he does to the best of his ability. He was a £1M purchase and has always given 100% so I won’t knock him for that.
4. I’ll stick with Haidara at left back. He too will get better and he looks more dangerous on the left wing than anyone else right now.
5. In midfield, I go for Ben Arfa, Cabaye, Perch (in front of the back four), Sissoko and Gouffran.
It’s time we gave Ben Arfa a 60-70 minute run out and I feel psychologically it will do the lad good. He had something to prove at the beginning of the season and it showed. He still has that something to prove and, if he chooses to go for it, can win a match all by himself. The same goes for Cabaye and Sissoko.
When any one of these three Frenchmen have the ball at their feet, I feel something magical can happen. I don’t get that same feeling when anyone else has possession. I look to these three to be our match winners along with Cisse.
I pick Perch because he is playing consistently better than Tiote right now. The big mistake is to play Tiote AND either Perch, Bigirimana, Anita or Gutierrez. They have all become our ‘stoppers’ but alas I don’t see any of them as ‘creators’.
I pick Gouffran on the left ahead of Gutierrez. They both work hard and will race back to defend. Gouffran (whom we haven’t seen play as an out and out striker btw) has a better close game and is more dangerous when we attack.
6. Up front, Cisse picks himself. His goal rate is still good. BUT… up front alone he hasn’t had anyone to take the pressure off him. I would like to see Sissoko press even further up the middle to help in that department.
So here’s my starting XI v West Ham
(late update, Haidara injured – replace with Gutierrez)
I think Pardew will play Simpson and Gutierrez – ahead of Anita and either Ben Arfa or Gouffran.
Dropping our best players, from midfield, would be a huge psychological gamble – from which there’ll be no time to recover if it were to go wrong. If Pardew were to drop Sissoko and Cabaye, on grounds of a lack of merit, and we lost at West Ham – Ashley will have little choice but to sack Pardew; to save the season.
Win, draw or lose against West Ham, QPR and Arsenal, there will come an inquiry. Newcastle, for me, have the best squad of individual players in a long time – possibly as far back as the Keegan era.
WE have underperformed. Tactically, we don’t seem to have kept in touch with the modern (midfield dominated) game. Our number of goals scored from dead-ball situations is woeful. Defensively, we don’t have much discipline with how to deal with teams who play on the break.
Attack-wise we are over reliant on a single striker (who is amazing) but we don’t play to his strengths enough; we rely on the long ball far too often. We lose possession needlessly when passing the ball in our own half. We leak goals through ‘schoolboy’ mistakes. We don’t seem to move around off the ball the way other teams do. And yet we have a squad that man-for-man (I feel) is as good as any team outside the top 4.
A big finger is gonna point at our coaching and management BUT now is not the time.