Top "What If" Questions from Newcastle's Season
As the 2012/13 season comes to an end, Newcastle fans cannot be blamed for asking themselves what might have been had things been different this season.
Eventually slumping to a 16th-place finish, the Magpies only secured their Premier League safety with one week of the season remaining, despite enjoying a successful Europa League campaign earlier in the season.
In that competition, the highlight of Newcastle's season took place, as they knocked out Russian giants Anzhi Makhachkala in the round of 32, before pushing Benfica all the way in the quarter finals.
Here, we look at the biggest questions Newcastle fans have been asking themselves all season.
What If Newcastle Had Strengthened Sufficiently in the Summer?
One of the biggest failures of Newcastle's season happened before it began. The summer of 2012 was filled with speculation surrounding potential arrivals at St James' Park, although almost all of them proved to be false, with only one new player coming in.
That player was Vurnon Anita, who took time to settle into his new club after a £7m move from Ajax and was unable to cement a first-team place.
When the January transfer window arrived, it provided Newcastle with a chance to rectify their mistakes and Alan Pardew seized the opportunity by signing five new players, four of which were first-team regulars for the rest of the season.
Moussa Sissoko made an instant impact, scoring on his home debut before firing a winner in Newcastle's 3-2 win over Chelsea. Yoan Gouffran also chipped in with three goals and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa played regularly in defence.
The signings were undoubtedly the turning point in Newcastle's season and left Toon fans wondering what their season might have been like had they signed the same players six months earlier.
They would surely have provided the strength in depth that the Magpies seriously lacked in the first half of the season, as well as the quality that was also missing from Newcastle's play.
Pardew and co. have learned from their mistakes though and shouldn't be found guilty of the same mistake again, as the Newcastle hierachy look to strengthen again this summer.
What If Newcastle Hadn't Had so Many Injuries?
There is no doubt that Newcastle's season was severely affected by injuries to their thin squad.
The lack of signings in the summer left Alan Pardew hoping for a good run with injuries, but the gamble didn't pay off and many of his first team stars were struck down by problems.
Arguably the biggest loss was Hatem Ben Arfa, who missed months of the season with an ongoing hamstring injury that requires surgery in the summer. Without their most dangerous player, Newcastle struggled to create chances and, in turn, were not able to score as many goals as they needed to.
Over the busy Christmas period, Yohan Cabaye fell foul to a groin injury and missed 13 games, keeping him out until February and taking away another of Newcastle's more creative influences.
Fabricio Coloccini broke two bones in his back in March and only returned for the final two games of the season, leaving a giant hole in the heart of the Magpies' defence in his absence.
Surely, if Newcastle had not had these injuries, they would have been more equipped to fight on two fronts for the majority of the season. Instead, they were forced to rely on youth and fringe players which didn't work and left the Geordies to rescue themselves in the January transfer market.
What If Alan Pardew Had Experience of Managing a Side in Europe?
Alan Pardew's previous employers include Charlton Athletic, West Ham United and Southampton. The majority of Pardew's managerial career has came in the Championship, not a place that requires balance between domestic and European competition.
So, heading into a season where Pardew had to balance a squad evenly between playing twice a week, it can hardly come as a surprise that he failed.
Had Newcastle United been managed by a more experienced boss, their fortunes may well have differed drastically.
Pardew cannot be blamed for the packed schedule facing him, as he done his best with what he had at his disposal for the majority of the season. However, he made it hard for himself when he opted to play the likes of Moussa Sissoko and Jonas Gutierrez out of position regularly.
Newcastle fans will be hoping their manager learns from his experience and if the Geordies get back into the European mix, will perform better with his maiden European campaign behind him.
It's all well and good for Newcastle fans to ask themselves what might have been had things been different this season but the facts are that they didn't.
It was a poor season in which they drastically underachieved and as a result, the pressure on Alan Pardew is huge.
The loyal Toon fans are baying for Pardew's blood and want a new manager in for the new season, but with the manager's eight-year contract proving an impenetrable obstacle, he will remain in charge and have to win over the fans instead.
A repeat of any of the mistakes that we have discussed in the previous slides will not be tolerated by anyone on Tyneside, so it could be a long season next year if Pardew doesn't start recapturing the form of the 2011/12 season quickly.
On the bright side, going into next season Newcastle have no European distraction and a bigger squad to play with, meaning success shouldn't be as hard to find as it has this year.
And it could hardly get any worse than this year for Pardew, so things can only get better.
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