Well the opening match of the football season has been and gone, and rather depressingly had a very striking resemblance to the end of last season. A four goal defeat was not wholly unexpected; a fair few teams will probably suffer the same fate at the hands of one of the forerunners for the title this year. But I expect most won’t do it in the same insipid lacklustre manner. Excuses, injuries, strange substitutions, lack of application and a lack of intensity – this could very easily be a short review of last season, but instead it was more of the same from Pardew and his side.
Cabaye being left out of the starting line-up – more on this later – was just the start of what was to come. The selection of an half fit Gutierrez was a strange selection, and back fired when he had to limp off during the first half. It didn’t take long for us to be under pressure, and thanks to Krul and some dodgy refereeing we were, according to Pardew, “still looking like we could get something from the match” until the sending off. Seriously? Who is the bloke trying to kid? We were 2-0 down, had 1 definite penalty not given when Debuchy tripped Dzeko, and then the potential hand ball claim against Steven Taylor. Plus 2 or 3 great stops from Krul, we were out of the game after 10 minutes – and that’s being kind. As for Taylor, he did what he does best. Gets in a bad position so ends up blocking with his hand and then rubbing his hip to pretend it hit him there. A bit of verbals with Aguero, and then the expected rush of blood to the head and clobbers Aguero round the head. The card could have gone either way, but I don’t think there is much cause for argument or appeal on this one. That just added to what already looked a disjointed, disinterested and distinctly unadventurous performance. Only HBA came out of the game having showed a modicum of attacking intent, and his runs were then often let down, as is the norm with him, by a lack of intelligence when it comes to end product.
Defensively we were shocking. It was like they hadn’t met each other and all wanted to play their own individual games. The opening 2 goals showed the lack of communication and team play when it came to both our midfield and defence. This is simple stuff. The things a Sunday league coach would work with his defence to sort out. Debuchy deserves a special mention, whether he has had his ‘head turned’ by interest from PSG or was just missing his mate who knows, but he was off the pace, petulant and it reminded me very much of his Liverpool display last year.
Up front, we lacked any creativity and penetration. Cisse doesn’t offer enough unless you serve it up on a platter for him – completely anonymous on Monday. I found it odd that we replaced Goofy when Taylor got sent off. At least with Goofy on we know he will run into channels and can cause more problems with his pace.
Yes, it was a very good City side, but they will rarely have such an easy task of rolling a team over. Pardew asks us to judge him and the team after the Fulham game, I fear this remark could come back to haunt him. We are still to beat an Allardyce side at SJP since sacking him, and both he and Nolan will want to prove a point. We scraped a win against Fulham last year. Both these teams will be well organised and difficult to breakdown, doesn’t bode well for a team that couldn’t muster a single goal in their final 3 home games last season. If we are still sadly lacking in any cohesion or spirit by the Fulham game, that gives us 2 days to rectify it in the transfer window…..
Now, onto Cabaye; so a bid finally arrived for the Frenchman. Derisory? Not particularly, I’d say his actual value would be around £12-£15 million. We rate him higher due to his importance to us. Was he left out because his head was turned and wasn’t in the right state to play? Or was it, and I find this much more likely, an order from above saying let’s not risk an injury when we can make £20million off this lad. If we can squeeze as much as we can from PSG or Arsenal (less likely) and let him go. If they want his mate Debuchy as well, then I think I’d be happy for that to happen. The problem is, what do we do? What is the likelihood of replacing Cabaye and possibly Debuchy? I guess the line we would be fed is that we prepared for Cabaye’s departure last summer by bringing in Anita. MYM or Santon would go right back I guess. Problem solved and £25-30 million banked -one happy owner and a balance sheet for the open top bus parade.
I keep coming back to my view at the start of the summer which entailed wholesale changes. Sell 80% of the first team, bring in young hungry players – Redmond, Ince, Hughes, Maguire, Long, Powell, Chalobah, Byram, Trippier, Rhodes etc – supplemented with a top striker and write next season off as a learning curve for the kids; similar to Villa last year. At least doing that I could see we had a clear plan and direction. At the minute we seem to be drifting along aimlessly and headed for trouble.
Pardew is being hung out to dry by those above him, and like a spineless bag of hot air he is just making excuse after excuse because he knows he will never be given an opportunity to get his face in the media this much ever again – maybe punditry should be his next move. He is not good enough to manage at this level – 1 good season (5th) does not make up for a career of relegation and fighting for lower league promotion. He is favourite to be first out, and with good reason. Personally, I would like the club to go outside of the box and go for Gary White or Paul Clement. Would be a huge step up for Gary, and a role change for Paul, but both are excellent technical coaches and could get this set of players playing a brand of football that is enjoyable to watch. Neither would break the bank, and both would jump at the opportunity. Unfortunately Paul has followed his mentor Ancelotti to Madrid, but he has said last season that he was waiting for a call to become a manager, and Ancelotti has said he wouldn’t hold him back if the opportunity arose. Gary is manager of Guam at the minute, and has worked for a few small national sides and also at clubs in the US. He is amongst the top 15 qualified football coaches recognised by FIFA globally. He has a track record of improving underachievers, and made great improvements to youth development with his training methods in the US. So much so that the United States Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program adopted his methods due to the improvement in progression and results. Gary, working with an experienced DoF – a Dario Gradi type – may be the perfect option for Ashley’s model of developing talent.
Apologies, not much on Africa this week as Newcastle have managed to get me deflated only 1 game into the season! A new record I think. Still, I will give you a quick update on how the academy got on in their game the other week. They were beaten 4-3 in what was an excellent performance by the lads. Going ahead 3 times, and finally succumbing with only a few minutes remaining after our right back went all Debuchy on us and gave away a penalty. All the goals we conceded were soft, which was disappointing, but going forward we looked very good. An excellent display from Frank giving the opposing full back a torrid time, a full back who has 27 international caps the most recent of which only being 5 years ago. He created 2 of our 3 goals with runs down the flank and then delivering superb balls in to the box which we managed to convert. Our lads tired as the game went on though, as Kuche Kuche spread the play with excellent passing and touch typifying their display. George, the Malawian head of the academy Davie, and I were all very pleased with the display. Next up is a tournament in the youth offenders prison which we will have an academy team, and a mizungu team! That should be interesting indeed!
Follow Alex on TWITTER
THRU BLACK & WHITE EYES – MONEY AND SHARE – 25/Aug/13 Next Post:
Drums & Wires – Packet of Ten – TF/DE1