On December 31, 2013 Newcastle United were within four points of the Champions League places and had torn up the history books with a precious win against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Fast forward just four months and the winds of optimism have shifted on Tyneside as they face into Monday night’s game against Arsenal that marks Magpies’ manager Alan Pardew’s return from his touchline ban.
The January transfer window, ultimately, marked the end of Newcastle United’s aspirations for the season. Star man Yohan Cabaye who had been integral to the fine form shown by Alan Pardew’s men was sold to French giants Paris Saint Germain with no replacement recruited in time.
Then we had a strong contender for ‘Worst Contribution to a Football Club’ in the history of the game after Joe Kinnear’s resignation as Director of Football.
The self-proclaimed football genius resigned from his duties at St. James’ Park having failed to oversee one permanent signing, despite being appointed with the task of organising transfers with his expertise and vast contacts in the game.
However, the former Wimbledon boss cannot be blamed solely for Newcastle’s dismal form since the turn of the year. Pardew has a lot to answer for, and when he’s not head-butting opposition players or verbally abusing other managers, he is deploying the most questionable football tactics known to man.
His decision to play Moussa Sissoko (a box-to-box midfielder) on the right-wing and Vurnon Anita (a holding midfielder) at right-back as part of a defensive 3-5-2 have raised just a few questions on Tyneside. At one point, he had the club’s three left-backs on the pitch at the same time away to Southampton.
After 13 defeats in the last 18 games ahead of tonight’s visit to Arsenal is just one stat that proves how bad things now are at Newcastle. And NUFC fans won’t need reminding that the Gunners ran out 7-3 winners on their last trip to the Emirates in December 2012 or that they’ve lost their last five Premier League games.
And it gets worse.
Hatem Ben Arfa – arguably the most skilled and talented player to grace the club since Rob Lee has been relegated to the bench and could be to sold in the summer after a fall-out with Pardew. Ben Arfa, who emerged from the same generation at Lyon as Karim Benzema may have motivational issues, but Pardew has not even tried to resuscitate the undoubted quality and flair the Frenchman brings to the team.
World Cup Worries
While the majority of the blame lies at Pardew’s door – some of the players in the squad with World Cup 2014 ambitions have also mysteriously picked up various knocks ruling them out of a large part of 2014.
The likes of Loic Remy, Mathieu Debuchy and Shola Ameobi have all dropped their performance levels – and that took some doing by Ameobi.
Remy may have been injured but he hasn’t rushed back while Debuchy has also made sure he hasn’t killed himself with a quick return.
Others will argue that the Newcastle players are doing everything they can to get Pardew sacked, and a finish outside of the Top 10 would – apparently – result in his dismissal. Newcastle United fans meanwhile crave fresh ideas, and ultimately a new manager.
All there in black and white
Pardew has lost the respect of the NUFC supporters, a considerable quantity of squad members, and fellow managerial professionals.
His tactical inefficiencies, poor man-management skills and general all-round behaviour have, coupled with the lack of signings in the transfer window resulted in the depressing institution that NUFC represents at the moment.
Newcastle fans will hope that the club gets a fresh injection of talent next season but for now will be inevitably be left watching a certain Ameobi line out at the world’s most prestigious competition in Brazil wondering where it all went wrong.