The Biggest Changes Alan Pardew Needs to Make at Newcastle United
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After a mixed start to the 2013-14 campaign, Newcastle United find themselves in the safe surroundings of mid-table in the Premier League, with 10 points acquired from their first seven games.
Manager Alan Pardew has overseen some eye-catching performances so far, but has also suffered setbacks in what has been an erratic start by the Magpies.
With a number of difficult fixtures on the horizon following the international break, the Toon boss needs his squad to dig deep against the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur in the next month.
And with the all-important Tyne-Wear derby against Sunderland also drawing near on the 27th, we look at five aspects Pardew must address over the coming weeks.
Get Papiss Cisse Scoring Again
Papiss Cisse has gone 13 Premier League games without a goal.
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With the odd exception, Newcastle United have always boasted a rich tradition of celebrated No. 9s, and their star strikers over the years have repaid that billing with goals galore.
However, the current incumbent, Papiss Cisse, has not found the net in the Premier League in 13 top-flight games—a dry spell that extended to 1,066 minutes following Saturday’s win at Cardiff City.
Thankfully for the Magpies and their manager Alan Pardew, French forward Loic Remy is currently enjoying a sensational run of form, with five goals in his last three league games.
But the need to get Cisse into the goalscoring habit once more is a pressing issue for Pardew, and one that needs confronting as a tricky run of fixtures begins with the visit of Liverpool on Oct. 19.
Eradicate His Team’s Defensive Collapses
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Not for the first time in recent seasons, Newcastle United’s defence collapsed in spectacular fashion against Everton eight days ago, and Alan Pardew’s men found themselves 3-0 down at half-time.
Amid scenes reminiscent of last term's 6-0 humiliation at the hands of Liverpool at St. James’ Park, the Toon’s back four completely lost control against the Toffees during the opening 45 minutes.
That the Magpies possess such a destructive streak is a major worry for their manager as well as their fans, and their tendency to crumble must be eradicated.
If United are to firm up their mid-table position and press on toward a top-10 finish, spells like the one against Everton, which saw them concede after just five minutes, must become a thing of the past.
Decide on a Settled Partnership in Central Defence
Mike Williamson has had a positive effect on Newcastle's defence recently.
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Newcastle United captain Fabricio Coloccini has had no fewer than three central defensive partners during the club’s seven league fixtures so far, and their goals-against tally reflects as much.
Only the Premier League’s bottom two clubs—Crystal Palace and Sunderland—have conceded more goals that the Magpies this term, and the constant changes in personnel hasn’t helped their cause.
Steven Taylor effectively ruled himself out of the early-season picture with a reckless straight red card on the opening day at Manchester City, while Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa’s form has been erratic at best.
The introduction of forgotten man Mike Williamson seems to have had a calming effect at the back, and Alan Pardew must now decide whether to stick with the 29-year-old or risk further costly disruptions.
Strengthen Properly During the January Transfer Window
Loic Remy was Newcastle's only signing this summer.
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Newcastle United’s well-documented failure to strengthen their squad during the summer left some predicting the worst for the Magpies.
And while their mixed start to the campaign has suggested otherwise, there are still a number of positions screaming out for reinforcements.
Since the departure of Danny Simpson, a complete lack of competition at right-back has ensured the continued presence of Mathieu Debuchy despite his positional flaws.
Further options up front and in wide areas are also needed to give Alan Pardew’s squad a sense of completion in the face of inevitable suspensions and injuries.
Owner Mike Ashley prefers to do his transfer business in January, when he believes greater bargains are available.
And after landing no fewer than six new faces during the last winter window, the club’s supporters will be hoping for another busy new year.
Newcastle recently slipped up at home to newly promoted Hull.
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It doesn’t take a genius to work out that Newcastle United have struggled to find consistency over the past few seasons, and a quick look at their record confirms as much.
Last season the Magpies followed up a home defeat to relegated Reading with an away win at Aston Villa and victory over Chelsea, while the campaign before that saw Alan Pardew’s men triumph at Stamford Bridge—four days after losing 4-0 at Wigan Athletic.
This term has been no different, with commendable results at Villa and Cardiff City wedged either side of a demoralising loss to newly promoted Hull City at St. James’ Park.
Pardew’s side have developed the frustrating habit of passing up good opportunities, and the Toon boss must do everything in his power to remedy their unpredictability.