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Alan Pardew will have nobody else to blame now if Newcastle screw up

Our blogger gets stuck into Newcastle United after the departure of the much-derided Joe Kinnear and wonders who they'll turn to following the sale of Cabaye...

by Amy Eustace | February 8, 2014

If Joe Kinnear’s short-lived stint as Newcastle’s Director of Football was a science experiment, it would’ve been Frankenstein’s monster: ugly, ineffective and ill-advised.

His appointment, and his painfully awkward interviews, elicited the collective facepalming of the entire Toon Army. He didn’t prove them wrong. Seven months later and without having made a single permanent transfer, bringing in two players on loan, and overseeing Yohan Cabaye’s departure, Kinnear ‘resigned’.

What really happened isn’t entirely clear, and it may well have been that letting Cabaye leave without securing a replacement was the final straw. Or perhaps it was the reported fall in season ticket renewals. In any case, he was about as suited to the role of Director of Football as he is to being an underwear model.

The fans were glad to see him go. Alan Pardew may also have been, if Kinnear hadn’t become such an effective conducting rod for criticism, and if the damage hadn’t already been done.

With the universally derided Director of Football out of the picture, power is back in Pardew’s hands.  So too, however, is responsibility, and he’s arguably worse off now than he was when Kinnear was drafted in.

  • Predicted by some to capitulate this season, Newcastle have improved on last year’s results. They are 13 points better off, have won five more games and have conceded 11 fewer goals than they had at this point in 2012/13.

Much of that is down to the stellar form of Cabaye, who shone for Newcastle despite his stated bitterness over the collapse of his mooted move to Arsenal.

He attributed the failed transfer to Kinnear, so it was probably no coincidence that Kinnear was unable to deter him from leaving in January. Cabaye has claimed that Newcastle had agreed to let him depart well in advance.

If that’s the case, the Irishman’s failure to replace him is even worse. Though Kinnear paid the price with his job, Newcastle fans and indeed its manager are likely to suffer more serious consequences.

They got their first taste of post-Cabaye life last weekend when, the day after the window slammed shut, Newcastle were on the wrong end of a 3-0 derby thrashing at the Stadium of Light. Cabaye’s absence was certainly felt.

  • Since joining Newcastle from Lille in 2011, the Magpies have won 47% of their games when he has featured, and just 19% when he hasn’t.

“The team, with Yohan in it, was more how I like to play, more towards the vision I’ve always had,” said the manager.

They have no shortage of midfield options – Hatem Ben Arfa, Moussa Sissoko, Sylvain Marveaux are just some of those in contention – but none possess the technical skill, passing vision, set-piece precision, goal-scoring and defensive capability of their departed teammate.

Even Ben Arfa, who periodically shows flashes of world-class brilliance, lacks the self-confidence to convince Pardew of his suitability for the role.

All signs point towards a slip into the realm of ‘ugly’ football.

“It’s about getting the best results,” Pardew said, “and I think, if we don’t replace Cabaye, we might have to change our style a bit.”

So, Newcastle fans can almost certainly expect punted long balls towards Loic Remy, and new loan signing Luuk De Jong – bypassing a midfield which, sans Cabaye, Pardew apparently distrusts.

The problem with that is simply that if it doesn’t work, Pardew has nowhere to go, no aesthetically pleasing playing style to back him up and no Joe Kinnear to soak up the blame. If there was one thing Kinnear was good at, it was being the centre of attention.

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