Trouble brewing as Pardew faces fight for survival
Brighton & HA 2 Newcastle Utd 0:Finding fault with Newcastle’s logic when they gave Alan Pardew an eight-year contract in September was almost impossible. Derek Llambias, the managing director, reasoned the deal would provide stability at a club where chaos once reigned, managers came and went with alarming regularity and players ran wild, ultimately leading to Newcastle’s relegation from the Premier League in 2009.
Last season, Pardew’s astute management saw the team finish fifth and earned him the LMA’s manager of the year award. Job security was the least he deserved.
Yet the ink had barely dried on that contract before it all started to go wrong for Newcastle, who have won only three times in the league – at home to QPR, Wigan and West Bromwich – since Pardew committed his long-term future to the club. The slump has left them two points above the bottom three and was further exacerbated by Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Brighton, who ruthlessly capitalised on the frailties caused by a huge injury list.
Andrea Orlandi and Will Hoskins delivered two fine goals but it was the industry and combativeness of Liam Bridcutt that secured the man-of-the-match award for the 23-year-old midfielder.
Ten first-team players were missing with various ailments for Newcastle, while Cheik Tiote has already joined the Ivory Coast for the Africa Cup of Nations, and it was too much for Newcastle’s youngsters to handle.
Pardew was frank in his assessment that they are now in a relegation battle. Crucially, his job is not under any threat and there is understanding about the run of injuries which have exposed how thin the squad is, while the sale of their top scorer, Demba Ba, to Chelsea last week although expected, was damaging all the same. Money will be spent this month and the France right-back, Mathieu Debuchy, has already arrived from Lille for €6.7m. “We’re working round the clock to get players in and players back because there’s no doubt about it that the form we’re in, that we’re fighting to stay in the Premier League,” Pardew said.
The situation will slightly improve when they visit Norwich City, who are managed by Pardew’s predecessor, Chris Hughton, on Saturday, after which they have winnable fixtures at home to Reading and away to Aston Villa, before games against Chelsea and Tottenham.
Yohan Cabaye, Papiss Cisse, Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor should all return at Carrow Road but they will have to do without Hatem Ben Arfa for at least another month. James Perch also left Brighton with a swollen knee and Shola Ameobi is suspended for a match after a soft dismissal for two yellow cards.
Pardew has been left in the lurch by the board’s failure to back him last summer, denying him the chance to add both quantity and quality, and they have struggled to cope with the demands of the Europa League. Now Newcastle are paying for their complacency and lack of foresight; the owner, Mike Ashley, should take his share of the blame.
Pardew did not want to say it, but Newcastle probably are too good to down, which was evident in recent performances at Arsenal and Manchester United. Yet that assumption is based on old faces returning and new ones coming in. Otherwise they really are asking for trouble.