Alan Pardew Has Plenty of Time with His Squad Before Their Next Game
After being frustrated by questionable decisions from the officials in their Europa League Round of 32 clash against Metalist Kharkiv Thursday night, Newcastle United now have seven days to prepare for the second leg in Ukraine, as their early exit from the FA Cup means there is no weekend fixture for the Magpies.
But how should manager Alan Pardew use the weekend off?
Is it a case of resting ahead of the task of juggling domestic and European action for the remainder of the season?
Or is it fine tuning some key areas which could prove the difference at the end of the campaign?
Here are four ways the Newcastle team could benefit from their extended rest this weekend.
Newcastle Are Poor From Corners
Newcastle have one of the worst conversion rates from corners in the Premier League, having not scored as a direct result of a corner in over three years. Despite having some aerially talented players like Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini, the Magpies can never seem to find any of their own inside the box and the opposition clears easily.
However, you don’t have to have the biggest or most powerful players to be successful from set pieces. Many teams work on corner routines in order to fool the opposition, rather than pumping the ball into an area and hoping one of their players meets it first.
This is something Newcastle have simply never done. Instead, Yohan Cabaye delivers a perfectly good cross time after time, only to see his efforts repelled by the other team.
This weekend could be the time to work on a few ways of mixing things up from set pieces. Routines that see a number of “dummy runners” head to one post as the ball gets pulled back behind them for a midfielder to hit or something similar, perhaps.
Something needs to change, though, because whenever Newcastle get a corner, fans are not hopeful that Taylor—or anyone for that matter—will get on the end and crash a header past the goalkeeper.
Instead, they are more worried about the inevitable counter attack that their team will be defending in a matter of seconds.
Time to get your creative head on, Mr. Pardew.
Resting ahead of the rest of the season is important for Newcastle
It’s easy to forget the hectic schedule that Newcastle have had over the last couple of months, as well as the fixture list still remaining.
A poor December that tested the legs to the brink, coupled with a threadbare squad left Alan Pardew’s players running on empty for the first fortnight in January, signified by the dull, goalless draw with Norwich City.
Now, with a larger squad and more room for rotation, the key players Newcastle cherishes can be rested and nurtured through the rest of the season.
Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sissoko have been paired together in every game since the latter arrived from Toulouse in January, and the worry of burnout can now be combated by the rest this weekend, ahead of the double header against Metalist and Southampton next week.
Foreign Legion Having an Effect on Toon Fans
With the influx of Frenchmen on Tyneside in recent weeks, there is now a strong Gallic accent flowing around the training ground. This is something Alan Pardew is keen to eradicate and expects his French imports to be speaking English as soon as possible.
Steven Taylor, one of the few genuine Geordies in the Newcastle squad, has been learning French after buying a language CD as the new arrivals came in, and this weekend is a chance for the likes of Sissoko, Gouffran, Haidara and Debuchy to brush up on their English skills.
I think it’s going to be a long time before one of the new boys develops a Geordie accent though.
Cisse Hasn't Lived Up to Last Season's Scoring Exploits
Since January, Newcastle have been a seemingly entirely different side to the one that struggled through the first half of the season. Sissoko and Cabaye have orchestrated the Magpies’ rise from the ashes and dragged their side further clear of the relegation places.
However, they have been let down somewhat by Papiss Cisse’s lack of confidence and poor finishing. The former Freiburg striker was particularly wasteful in Thursday night’s Europa League clash with Metalist Kharkiv, as he spurned numerous chances to give Newcastle an unassailable lead heading into the second leg next Thursday.
Some might say he was unlucky as the linesman disallowed two seemingly legitimate goals for offside, but even without those two strikes, Cisse still missed plenty of chances.
The Senegal man should have ample confidence after the departure of Demba Ba, which now means he will be first-choice striker in his favoured centre-forward position.
But Thursday night, even simple-looking chances seemed to daunt the striker, and Cisse let the keeper get the better of him on a number of occasions.
This weekend could be the time to work on his finishing while clean through on goal, with many of Cisse’s misses coming when he has time to think about what he needs to do. Most of his goals for Newcastle have been instinctive, without chance for any doubt to creep into his head before he tries to beat the goalkeeper.
Once we see the Cisse of last season, Newcastle could have the final piece of their puzzle and start adding plenty of goals to the rest of their impressive looking outfit.