After a dreadful start to the season compounded by a 4-0 hammering at Southampton, you could be forgiven for thinking that Alan Pardew’s days were numbered at Newcastle United.
Following another defeat to Stoke City, it looked like the writing was on the wall, or at least for any other manager it should have been. Then again, when you avoid the axe after head-butting a fellow professional, in hindsight, this was nothing to worry about for Pardew.
His prayers were answered however, and his side now lie just two points off the Champions League places after a fine run of victories. This begs the question: why the dramatic return to form?
The House Of Pards suddenly looking sturdier than ever! pic.twitter.com/jOgKkUaLSq
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) October 26, 2014
When a certain Gabriel Obertan began to receive regular game-time in a Newcastle United jersey, you knew there were major injury problems at St James’ Park. Siem de Jong, Davide Santon and the seemingly seldom available Cheick Tiote all occupied the medical room.
As a result, Alan Pardew was forced to change personnel and Obertan was just one of a number drafted in. The Frenchman added real pace on the wings, which in turned allowed our usual right-midfielder, Moussa Sissoko, occupy his natural position of strength in central midfield. The side now had pace on the right hand side, and real industry in the centre.
Obertan scored the winner in a 1-0 victory over Leicester City to kick-start NUFC’s season – but truth is, he would have been nowhere near the line-up if the squad had a clean bill of health. Again, I repeat, injuries left Pardew with no choice but to involve him. Mehdi Abeid, a young Algerian midfielder who bossed the park against Liverpool at St. James’ Park on his league debut is another example of an injury related inclusion, and has kept his place ever since. Spot the trend?!
Tinkering with Tactics
Ultimately, one of the main reasons for NUFC’s inability to win a game of football since start of the season was down to the shape Pardew set out. He opted for a 4-2-3-1 with summer signing Emmanuel Riviere leading the line on his own. There was no service from Yoan Gouffran on the wings and as mentioned above, Sissoko’s real potential was being hindered in a wide position.
Then came along Sammy Ameobi.
Ameobi, the younger brother of the talented Shola, was introduced as a substitute in a 2-2 draw away at Swansea a week before Newcastle recorded their first win of the season. The 21-year-old replaced, you guessed it, Yoan Gouffran on the left-side, and made an immediate impact by teeing up Papiss Cisse for his second goal of the game to salvage a point.
Similar to Obertan, he offered pace, a directness, and a confidence brought about by knowing he couldn’t perform any worse than the man he replaced.
All of a sudden Newcastle United offered a 4-3-3 shape and a team with the speed and power to counter-attack their opponents to devastating effect.
A stunning goal from Ayoze Perez made it four straight wins for Newcastle. We’ll hear from Alan Pardew this hour: pic.twitter.com/fJYiUYyET9
— Sky Sports News HQ (@SkySportsNewsHQ) November 10, 2014
The Arrival of Ayoze Perez
When Newcastle finalised a €2m deal with Tenerife for Ayoze Perez in the summer, there was a sense of excitement amongst a small section of Toon supporters. The 21 year-old had torn defences asunder in the Spanish second division. This lad looked to have potential, and the hairdo to match it, we thought.
Due to an injury suffered by Cisse, Ayoze was given his first Premier League start at White Hart Lane. Long story short – the skilful Spaniard scored the winner with a brilliant glancing header before putting Liverpool and West Brom to the sword in recent games.
This guy is the real deal, and the fearlessness of youth has played right into the hands of Alan Pardew. Just when the club needed a real boost, Ayoze arrived to help restore optimism amongst Newcastle United fans, and in turn, aid a truly phenomenal turnaround in form.
Many will heap praise on Pardew for the ‘unbelievable’ change of fortune, and while he does deserve credit for remaining professional throughout the period of pressure, the club’s turn in fortune is not entirely down to the ex-Charlton boss, but rather a combination of the above.
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