Sunday was undoubtedly the worst day of Newcastle United’s season.
They were comfortably beaten by their most bitter of rivals, as Sunderland sent Alan Pardew’s side to a new low in a season which they cannot wait to end.
Newcastle turned in a lacklustre performance which lacked the energy and fight needed to be victorious in a derby game, most probably a consequence of their Europa League exerts less than three days previous.
The defeat has left loyal Geordies looking for an explanation into what went wrong on Sunday, and a number of supporters have turned on Pardew himself.
After enjoying a honeymoon season last year, this season has been a nightmare for the former Charlton and West Ham boss. Continually battling a lengthy injury list which has prevented him from fielding his strongest side on a regular basis hasn’t helped, while balancing European competition with domestic success is something many managers struggle with.
For me, the calls for Pardew’s head are premature. As mentioned earlier, many managers struggle when challenged with balancing two competitions and the injuries suffered by some of Newcastle’s most important players have been desperately unlucky.
Any side without Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye for large parts of the season would struggle to play two games in a week and that is exactly what has happened to Newcastle. The small squad couldn’t manage for the first half of the season and poor form has almost plunged the Geordies into a relegation scrap.
Is Alan Pardew the Right Man for the Newcastle job?
Pardew could perhaps be blamed for the former of the two problems, as his evaluation of his squad in the summer proved to be poor when his youngsters failed to make the step up to the first team.
He saved himself in January, though, and his new arrivals could be the solitary reason why his side narrowly avoid relegation.
Ironically, the influx of Frenchman that may have ultimately saved Newcastle’s season could be one of the reasons why they were unsuccessful on Sunday. The lack of local players in the black and white ranks is something that won’t have helped against Sunderland, as the Frenchmen struggled to make an impact.
The only local players that made the match day squad for the derby were Steven Taylor, Shola Ameobi and youngster Adam Campbell, while the rest were imports that struggle to grasp the importance of the match.
Maybe it’s harsh to pin that factor solely on Pardew but one thing that he cannot escape is his tactical mistakes that have littered his sides’ season.
The weekend game was the biggest mistake. Jonas Gutierrez being chosen ahead of Massadio Haidara and Vurnon Anita for the left-back slot proved to cost Newcastle the game, as the Argentine was at fault for two of the Mackems’ three goals.
First, he gifted the ball to James McLean in the build up to Stephane Sessegnon’s goal and later allowed Adam Johnson to cut inside onto his stronger left foot and fire home.
Haidara had played on Thursday night against Benfica, which Pardew said was his main reason behind choosing Gutierrez over the 20-year-old. However, a natural left-back would not have allowed Johnson to ghost past him so easily for the second goal and given Haidara’s recent impressive form, wouldn’t have been a risky choice.
Pardew, partly thanks to his whopping eight-year contract, will not be sacked by Mike Ashley and the powers that be at St James’ Park. But next season will be the deciding factor for Pardew, as his side's schedule goes back down to one game a week and the injury table hopefully becomes more underused.
If the 2013-14 season threatens to be anywhere near as unsuccessful as the 2012-13 campaign, then pressure will once again build on Pardew. It’s time for a strong backbone from the Magpies manager, as his tenure hangs in the balance.
Let me know what you think either by commenting below, or hitting me up on Twitter, @91Marley.