Why Mike Ashley can’t pull the trigger
As Newcastle United embark on what’s been popularly been dubbed as their renewed ‘French Revolution’ this January, it’s fair to say that their new Gallic recruits are set to embark on a crusade of salvation, rather than a push towards European qualification.
With Montpellier’s Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa becoming the latest Frenchman to join St. James’ Park, following the arrival of Mathieu Debuchy and the expected acquisitions of Yoan Gouffran and Nancy’s Massadio Haidara, owner Mike Ashley can hardly be accused of leaving the club’s current plight unaddressed.
Because if anyone had any lingering doubts about the severity of the Magpies’ situation in the league this season, then last weekend’s 2-1 defeat at home to Reading delivered the most brutal of reality checks.
With Alan Pardew’s side sitting a mere two points above the relegation zone, last season’s giddy memories of a searing fifth placed finish remain firmly just that; memories. The threat of relegation may seem intangible to some given the talents that exist within this Newcastle side, but that painfully tired cliché about the league table and its refusal to lie, couldn’t ring more true.
Far too many of those talents have been either unavailable or performing woefully below the required standard for long parts of this season and judging by the club’s activity in the transfer window this month, the hierarchy aren’t looking to take any chances, either.
Would the aforementioned quartet of players have necessarily arrived regardless of the side’s current lowly league position? Whether you call it making up for a poor summer transfer period or simply throwing Pardew the tools he needs to get out of a relegation mire, you can’t help but feel their precarious position might have catalyzed a slightly more excessive January spend than what you’d normally expect.
Although while the club may be looking to right some of the wrongs that currently exist within the playing staff, there is one perceived wrong that they shouldn’t even think about addressing.
While Mike Ashley took his fair share of critique and ridicule following the news that the club had handed Alan Pardew and the rest of his coaching staff a staggering set of eight-year deals, no one could have possibly expected quite how badly Pardew would subsequently pay him back. Newcastle’s sticky situation of late boils down to a lot more than mistakes made by the ex-Charlton Athletic man, although Pardew’s excuses are beginning to run thin.
The defeat to Reading was by no means a mortal blow to the Magpies’ season, although it certainly signaled an irrepressible change from palpable frustration to all-out anger, amongst some pockets of supporters.
Regardless of the form and fitness issues Newcastle have faced this season, Pardew has no one else to blame for the negative tactics and often baffling substitutions that have played their part in the side’s downfall this term. Taking off a rampaging Sylvain Marveaux for James Perch with the side only 1-0 up last weekend, seemed a fitting doff of the hat for Pardew’s often uninspiring tactical changes this term. Every manager makes mistakes and Pardew was happy to hold his hands up for the Marveaux one. But there are only so many more mistakes he’s going to be able to afford to make.
But despite calls from the more disenchanted section of Newcastle fans for drastic measures from Mike Ashley and co, even if they loose away to Aston Villa next week, the club shouldn’t entertain the idea of pulling the trigger on Pardew’s rollercoaster managerial reign.
If the tides of support began to wane after the Reading defeat, then you get expect something approaching an all-out drought should Newcastle go down to Paul Lambert’s men at Villa Park. A loss would see them slip to two points below Villa and should Reading or Wigan Athletic win, then a spot in the relegation zone awaits.
Pardew’s seemingly never-ending row of excuses for the side’s poor form has been a real bone of contention with some supporters, but his pleas for sympathy aren’t without foundation. The talismanic duo of Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa have simply missed far too many games this season, but with Cabaye now back in the side and Ben Arfa set to imminently return, the club have arguably its two finest players now back in the fold. The impact of that cannot be downplayed.
Furthermore, the additions of the likes of Debuchy and Yanga-Mbiwa aren’t potshot transfer panic buys brought in a relegation-threatened haze. In Debuchy, Newcastle have acquired France’s first choice left-back of Euro 2012 and in Yanga-Mbiwa, they’ve snapped up a classy defender who captained Montpellier to Ligue One success last season.
This isn’t some ‘Football Manager’ approach to the transfer market – the club are bringing in well scouted, top level players, with the only criticism being that they should have been snapped up five months earlier. Their January acquisitions have the capacity to make a huge impact upon Newcastle’s season, but Pardew must be the man to ease them into this squad.
It’s not as if the Premier League needed reminding, but Nigel Adkins’ recent dismissal at Southampton shows just how little substance a Premier League chairman needs to wheel out the managerial guillotine. But for all his faults at Newcastle United do supporters really want to go down the Southampton route for the rest of the season?
Let Pardew fight it out with the squad that he helped construct with the players he’s looked to bring in this January. There’s a lot of football left to be played in this league and with the imminent arrivals and returning players that he’s got at his disposal, Pardew’s got enough time to turn things around. Regardless of how many of those eight years he might see out, now is not the time to rip that contract up. Not just yet, anyway.