It’s not been the most positive of starts for Newcastle’s 2013/2014 Premier League campaign. Admittedly, an away opener against Manchester City would always have been a difficult affair, but the Magpies faithful will be more concerned over an incredibly uninspiring bore draw at home to West Ham, who only managed 13 points on the road last term. It’s already lead to speculation over the future of Newcastle boss Alan Pardew, who is now being linked to the Crystal Palace post.
But it’s not as if we’ve seen a summer of free spending from the Tyneside outfit, to improve what turned out to be an incredibly shaky squad from last season. In fact, so far this transfer window, the Magpies have made one single acquisition in Loic Remy, who joins them from QPR on a season-long loan, despite the added transfer aid and wisdom of Joe Kinnear, now serving as Director of Football.
It begs the question; is Alan Pardew being hung out to dry at St. James’s Park? The discontent of the supporters after finishing up in 16th place with 19 defeats last season is well known, and although Mike Ashley seems willing enough to grant the Newcastle boss a stay of execution out of respect for Pardew’s successes the campaign previous where the Magpies gained continental qualification, he’s hardly backed his manager in the transfer market this summer by improving the roster.
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Although Pardew’s managerial abilities have often come into question, the make-up of the Newcastle squad undoubtedly contributed to their poor showing last season. Gary Neville has argued that the imbalance of home-grown talent and those sourced from Ligue 1, with just seven senior squad members coming through British academies in comparison to the ten Frenchman now on the books, was the invisible weight dragging the Magpies down, others have alluded to Papiss Cisse’s blunt efforts in front of goal, having netted just eight times in the Premier League, but my personal opinion is that there are simply too many unknown quantities at St. James’s Park, that arrived either last summer or in January at the expense of tried and tested top flight performers.
Mathieu Debuchy is the perfect example. A French international with a preceding reputation from his Ligue 1 days, who first turned up on the Premier League’s radar after putting in consistent displays for Lille in the Champions League, and subsequently the Europa League. The 28 year old’s arrival usurped Danny Simpson from the first team, and eventually out of the club all together, but we are yet to see Debuchy produce the goods in England, and so far in his Premier League career, he’s picked up more red cards than put in impressive performances.
And it’s hard to tell if he ever will, considering Newcastle’s defence remains arguably the most unorganised in the top flight. Of course, every player needs time to settle, but there are so many recent arrivals at St. James’s Park that there’s not a lot to settle into. Along with Debuchy, Moussa Sissoko, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Massadio Haidara and Yoann Gouffran, who all joined the Magpies in January, are yet to find their feet, and we are yet to receive enough evidence to make a decision over their quality or potential.
At the same time, the destabilising effect of the French contingent has also left a number of Newcastle’s mainstays incredibly unpredictable. Cheick Tiote, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini and Jonas Gutierrez haven’t been at their best for some time, and Davide Santon, Vurnon Anita and Sylvain Marveux haven’t progressed as expected, whilst the once seemingly unstoppable Papiss Cisse, who netted outrageous goals in almost every fixture of his opening Newcastle campaign, is looking more and more like a relegation outfit striker by the match – not that the Magpies’ long ball style does him any favours. Goalkeeper Tim Krul can claim to be the only member of the Magpies roster to provide consistent and reliable displays on a weekly basis.
These issues should have been solved this summer, preferably by bringing in experienced Premier Leaguers to create a sturdy basis for Alan Pardew to work from. But the Magpies missed out on Darren Bent to Fulham, and barring a reported interest in Wigan’s James McCarthy, the Tyneside club have hardly been linked with a wealth of top flight talent this summer, with their top targets once again located in Ligue 1.
Joe Kinnear raised a good point during an interview with the Mirror, citing that Newcastle’s limited summer expenditure is due to heavy spending over the past few seasons. According to St. James’s Park’s new Director of Football, ‘Alan Pardew has signed 16 players costing £60million’ in the last two years, and the Magpies wage budget is ‘comfortably in the top ten in the country’.
But as we know, if there’s one manager in the Premier League whose say in all things transfers is non-existent, it’s Newcastle’s Alan Pardew. Joe Kinnear’s arrival signified a further divide between the Magpies boss and the authority to bring in new signings, but before the former Wimbledon manager was controversially appointed as transfer head-honcho this summer, the vast majority of Newcastle’s inward transfers came from chief scout Graham Carr’s department, rather than Pardew’s office.
And regardless of the fact Pardew has overseen a £60million transfer expenditure in the space of two years, it doesn’t make any difference to the limited quality at his disposal. Mike Ashley outlined in May that he expects a top ten finish this term, and granted, there was only a five point gap between the Magpies in 16th and West Ham in 10th at the end of last season, but how is Pardew supposed to turn an underperforming squad around without the catalyst of new signings?
Adding further bodies to the mix for the sake of depth would only have exacerbated the squad’s unpredictability, but bringing in a few tried and tested performers with the right mentality at relatively cheap cost could be all the shaky roster needs to generate a solid and more consistent frame work, or at least provide Pardew with a more reliable first XI.
A strong contingent of the Newcastle fan base will argue that he doesn’t deserve it, but it’s quite clear that Alan Pardew isn’t receiving full backing from Mike Ashley. Left with a squad of questionable quantities that he didn’t even play a hand in signing, it seems as if someone’s laid a bed for Pardew, and for better or worse he’s expected to lie in it.
It feels like he’s being hung out to dry, and asked to prove himself with a selection of players that are yet to show they possess any Premier League quality. You won’t find too many disappointed faces at St. James’s Park if Pardew is given his marching orders as a result of a lack of new signings this summer, but I suggest they consider who’s waiting in the wings to replace him – everybody’s favourite footballing caveman, Joe Kinnear.
Is Alan Pardew being hung out to dry?
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