Kevin Doocey | NUFC blogger
After an almost fatal 2012/13 Premier League campaign, it’s time to take a look at what Alan Pardew needs to put right to ensure a successful season on Tyneside.
1. We have midfielders. Use them
Last season a lumbering Mike Williamson punting the ball forward into no man’s land was a common sight for Newcastle fans. It was as if Pardew was playing some sort of sick joke to see how long he could manage to keep the ball from the grasp of any Newcastle midfielder. The Magpies were the team that played the most long balls per game – even more than Stoke City.
Yohan Cabaye took the Premier League by storm in his first season with his stunning vision, and if Newcastle are to improve drastically this season then they need to get the Frenchman more involved.
With Moussa Sissoko and Cheick Tioté alongside Cabaye, there is no excuse for so many long balls in the coming season. Leave that to Sam Allardyce.
2. Liberate Hatem Ben Arfa
With the ball at his feet Hatem Ben Arfa is one of the most terrorising attackers in the Premier League, behind a peckish Luis Suaréz. The Frenchman’s ability to glide past defenders with relative ease and his natural ability convinced big Mike Ashley to part with £5m to sign the ex-Marseille man on a permanent deal half way through his loan spell in 2011, despite having suffered a broken leg.
Last season Ben Arfa did not feature too much and when he did he was often thrown in at the deep-end. If Pardew and his medical staff can keep the forward fit and give him a certain freedom in the final third, he will without doubt help Newcastle up into the top 10 and beyond. He’s a game game changer – a bit like Howard Webb.
3. Start scoring from corners
Corners are exciting. There’s always a chance of a goal, right? So start to use them as such. The Magpies went a whole season without scoring from a corner in 2012/13. The last time they scored from one was at Wolves (remember them?) in the 2011/12 campaign.
With Sissoko, Steven Taylor and even Shola Ameobi’s height and power – combined with Cabaye’s silky right foot – Newcastle should be scoring regularly from corners.
These changes may seem obvious – but get them right and NUFC will avoid a repeat of an embarrassing 16th place finish last season and drive towards the Top 10 again. If we can limit Alan Pardew’s fist-pumping and teach Papiss Cissé the offside rule the 5/4 to finish in the Top 10 could be good value.
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