It’s official: Newcastle United are in a state of ‘crisis’, at least according to manager Alan Pardew, who was seen frantically searching for positives in the aftermath of last weekend’s draw with Norwich.
The goalless stalemate was the Toon Army’s first clean sheet away from home all season but they can perhaps gain inspiration from avoiding defeat at a newfound fortress, which had previously claimed the illustrious scalps of Arsenal and Manchester United.
However, Demba Ba’s somewhat inevitable departure has dulled an attack in desperate need of reinforcements. Pardew has already announced his intention to jump head first into the transfer market, with Loic Remy set to join Mathieu Debuchy from Ligue 1, but will such new arrivals only disguise the real problem at the club?
How many supporters could have foreseen Newcastle’s upcoming encounter against Reading as a ‘relegation six-pointer’? The Magpies have gone from top six to the bottom six in one fell swoop, seemingly refusing to take up their recognised position as a mid-table entity.
The club have once again fallen foul of an injury-plagued narrative as their designs for the New Year stall without their architect Yohan Cabaye and artist Hatem Ben Arfa. However, such a predictable problem should have been countered in the summer with signings that offered experience and depth to a promising squad, which now looks soft at the core.
The high profile absentees have exposed Pardew’s worrying lack of tactical knowledge, seemingly prepared to pursue the same playing style despite lacking the players needed to make it work. There is also an unnerving false hope among some that those emerging from the treatment table will be able to conduct a miraculous turnaround, but this only serves to add to the pressure that comes with dwelling at the foot of the Premier League table.
What should have been the perfect opportunity for second-string players to showcase their credentials has turned into a series of embarrassing auditions. Gabriel Obertan doesn’t possess a single creative bone in his body and while the Ameobi brothers boast a cult-hero status, neither seems capable of providing suitable competition needed to prompt the best from Papiss Cisse. Nile Ranger carries the same disruptive baggage as Mario Balotelli, but sadly without the world-class potential that might make it worthwhile.
Herein lies the real cause for concern, with the club continuing to be hampered by an unproductive youth academy. After watching his side convincingly beaten in the FA Cup at Brighton, Pardew was then dealt a further blow when a team containing promising youngsters Mehdi Abeid, Romain Amalfitano and Shane Ferguson crashed out of the Northumberland Senior Cup at the hands of non-league outfit Bedlington Terriers.
The double helping of humiliation evoked understandable outrage from Pardew, who issued a severe “wake up call” to his young starlets, questioning their work ethic and professional mentality.
“When I played under Steve Coppell at Palace I’d played 14 or 15 games and I suggested I was on low money.
“And he kindly suggested to me to knock on his door after I’d played 50 games. That is about right.
“The problem we have is the money has changed considerably from my time. They are getting very, very well paid for not having to do a great deal.” (Chronicle Live)
Whereas Brendan Rodgers has been able to call upon the likes of Raheem Sterling and Suso to revive a similarly deprived squad, Pardew has refused to follow suit. Instead he has put faith in the likes of Mike Williamson, a player still lingering at the club since gaining promotion from the Championship. Some may point at Chelsea as a means of arguing that success can be achieved without new blood rising through the ranks, but sadly Newcastle do not possess the finances to compete for the world’s best players.
Newcastle are one of many club’s suffering at the hands of misguided and egotistical teenagers, just look at the recent struggles Sir Alex Ferguson had with Ravel Morrison and Paul Pogba. But there is an underlying feeling that many have forgotten the pride and tradition installed at the heart of Tyneside and while new arrivals may begin to transform results on the pitch, it’s clear mass changes are needed to get the club moving in the right direction again.