When I left St James Park on Saturday after yet another disappointing defeat in what has been a disastrous season for Newcastle United so far, I immediately started the inquest into who was to blame for another inept performance.
So far this season, Alan Pardew has managed to escape most of my disappointment. I have always found the blame to lie at the players' door. A missed chance here, a poor clearance there. However, after Saturday's defeat the finger of blame lied with one man, and that was the manager.
For the first time in his two-year tenure at the club I found myself questioning the methods of the man who until recent months has been a resounding success at the club.
The first-half performance showed no signs of the torment that was to come. With Yohan Cabaye back in the side and looking for the ball at every opportunity, we were already much improved. The Frenchman truly is an outstanding player. His awareness of everything going on around him and his ability to pick a pass makes Newcastle an all together better team. His free kick that put the team ahead on Saturday was one of the best I have seen at St James Park.
However, it was evident even in the first half that Cabaye wasn't going to last the full game. He had been out injured for nearly three months and it takes a while to get back to full speed in the fast paced Premier League.
Although he was our best player, he would have been the first player I would have taken off had I been the manager on Saturday. Instead, Pardew replaced the impressive Sylvain Marveaux with the defensive midfielder James Perch.
It was clear that the manager was hoping to hold on for a 1-0 win. That would be an appropriate change to make with ten minutes to go but not with twenty five minutes left as was the case on Saturday. When Cabaye then pulled up with a slight niggle a matter of minutes later and had to be replaced, any attacking intent went with him.
Chasing an important win, Pardew had replaced our most prominent attacking threats with two defensive players. The thought process was baffling.
The other mistake that Pardew continues to make is the persistence with Shola Ameobi. He is effective when he comes on against a tiring defence with 15 minutes to go but that's as far as it stretches for me. He is certainly not capable of playing a full match in a right-wing slot, which he was asked to do by his manager on Saturday. He does not have the fitness or ability to play this role.
Papiss Cisse had yet another poor game squandering four excellent chances to put the game beyond Reading. Following the departure of Demba Ba to Chelsea he is now back in his favoured central role and has no more excuses for his continued poor form.
The only real positives were the continued excellence of Davide Santon at left back and the positive performances displayed by Debuchy as he continues to settle into English football.
There is much to ponder for Alan Pardew, with only 10 days remaining in the transfer window and reinforcements drastically needed. Will he get the support he needs from owner Mike Ashley and will he still have a job in the North East if the poor run of form continues?
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