Newcastle: 5 Lessons Learned from Disastrous Loss to Reading
Disappointing. Excruciating. Painful. Embarrassing.
There are certainly many adjectives that could be used to describe Newcastle United's 2012-13 season thus far, and almost anything negative would fit.
After Saturday's shipwreck against Reading, it would be nice to say the Magpies could pick up the pieces and move on, but at this point there may be too many pieces to pick up in this shattered season.
Offensively inconsistent, defensively clueless and tactically stupid are no way to go through life in the Premier League.
Wingers Should Be Wingers
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Papiss Cisse is not a winger.
Congratulations to Alan Pardew for finally figuring this out.
However, Shola Ameobi as a winger makes Cisse look like Arjen Robben.
This isn't a knock on Ameobi. It's a knock on Pardew.
Now that Demba Ba (the reason Cisse was on the wing in the first place) is gone, there is no reason to keep doing something that never really worked.
Gabriel Obertan hasn't been everything he was expected to be since arriving Tyneside from Manchester United, but he has improved this season and makes a great deal more sense on the wing than Ameobi.
Maybe in a month or two Pardew will notice this too.
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Looking back on last season, one of the qualities of Alan Pardew's management was his ability to make the right substitutions at the right time.
That was not the case against Reading.
Pardew's first substitution, James Perch for Sylvain Marveaux in the 65th minute, made Newcastle a much more defensively minded XI than should have been necessary in a game where the offense for the most part was clicking (seven shots compared to Reading's two).
It didn't work, as Adam Le Fondre put both goals in for Reading after the substitution.
When Yohan Cabaye, the Magpies' lone goalscorer on a beautiful free kick, came off in the 74th minute for Gael Bigirimana, the crowd booed in disapproval of the decision.
While there was justification for the move because Cabaye had complained at half-time of an issue with his groin that had kept him sidelined for months, the timing was rather bizarre.
If a manager is going to substitute the best player on the pitch for an injury concern that had arisen at half-time, mulling the situation over until three minutes after the opposing side had just equalized seems like a poor course of action.
And by the time Obertan joined the fun in the 80th minute, all that could be said was: too little, too late.
He should have started for Ameobi in the first place.
Yohan Cabaye Is Still Wonderful
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Since June 2011, Yohan Cabaye has added creativity and class to Newcastle and has been a crucial part of the club's success. His absence in recent months has been a huge setback.
The Reading match became a microcosm of his Toon career.
Cabaye's free kick in the 35th minute was a true thing of beauty, and the majority of the Magpies' chances in the first half came through the work of the French international.
If his groin had held up, the match result may have looked quite different.
But it wasn't to be, as he fought through part of the second half only to be substituted in the 74th minute.
The dreamboat seems to be the one player in Newcastle's first team who has been able to support his teammates both through his play and his attitude this season. It will be nice to see if a 100 percent healthy Cabaye can single-handedly wake the squad up.
Lack of Leadership
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Captain Fabricio Coloccini has been a great player for Newcastle, and he has stuck with the club through its ups and downs.
Alan Pardew is the reigning Premier League Manager of the Season.
You would hope between the two of them, there would be some semblance of a leader on the club.
Yet after conceding Adam Le Fondre's first goal of the afternoon, the Magpies fell into complete disarray, thrashing about like a fish out of water for six minutes until the second goal came.
The players, according to all accounts, seem to be on good terms with one another. They play as a team, win or lose.
What they need is a strong leader.
Coloccini has been that in the past, but whatever personal issues the Argentinian center-back faces at the moment have led to a period of poor captaincy.
Pardew, as the manager, could certainly make up for this, but it seems he has fallen on his face as well. In fact, the two have fought at different times over the course of the season, and not in a positive manner.
Not that anything has gone in a positive manner this season.
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If one thing about Newcastle football is worse than watching the matches, it's listening to Alan Pardew's press conferences after losses.
Game after game, the Toon gaffer repeats the same messages about how injuries are to blame for the squad's problems, how they need to improve defensively (which is always said in a way that makes it seem akin to raising the dead) and how the team is still in good spirits.
All while deflecting any responsibility from himself.
After the Reading match, it was more of the same.
Besides his usual "need for defensive improvement" spiel, Pardew went as far as to partially blame the negative reactions from the fans toward his substitutions as the reason the team fell apart in the second half.
While his comments alone weren't particularly vicious, when they're paired with Newcastle striker Nile Ranger's absurd Twitter outburst, they reflect poorly on the relationship between team, manager and fans.
The Toon army will continue to support the team no matter what (see 2009-10), but now isn't a good time for Pardew to start making enemies.