Newcastle Focus - From Champions League hopefuls to relegation candidates
At the beginning of November last year, Alan Pardew told the BBC’s Football Focus programme - that a top four Premier League finish was genuinely possible for Newcastle this season. Fast forward a little over two months and the Magpies manager’s tune has undergone a radical but justified change. Surviving relegation is now of the utmost concern and representative of a significant challenge, given the circumstances prevailing around the club’s squad of players.
In addition to the continuing absence due to injury of Yohan Cabaye, Steven Taylor and Hatem Ben Arfa, Cheick Tiote is now away on Africa Cup of Nations duty with the Ivory Coast and could be so until next month, whilst Demba Ba’s transfer to Chelsea adds a further degree of difficulty to Pardew’s job of plotting his side’s path away from their current precarious position of two points above the drop zone.
Of the 27 goals Newcastle have scored in the league this season, 13 are courtesy of Ba, who performed consistently well throughout the troubled spell of his former employers, which was extended by Saturday’s 2-0 FA Cup defeat to Championship side Brighton. Following Ba’s departure, which Chelsea sealed by triggering a £7.5m release clause in the Senegalese striker’s Newcastle contract, that result marked a miserable start to 2013 for Pardew, leaving him to reflect that the adverse effect the absence of key players is having on his side could become detrimental as the rest of the season unfolds.
“We need to get our best players back and quickly, We need to sustain ourselves and make sure we're a Premier League team next season,” said Pardew in the wake of defeat on the south coast, before elaborating on his worries of the Magpies current on-field plight. “We want to stay there but we are in real danger and we need to get our best players out on the pitch. We're not too big to go down and we accept that."
As part of his efforts to ensure Newcastle avoid that fate which befell them in 2009, Pardew has spearheaded the signing of right-back Mathieu Debuchy from Lille, for a fee believed to be in the region of £5m. Injury to Danny Simpson, who has been a mainstay at right-back over recent times, means Debuchy’s capture does not arrive a minute too soon, with the French international primed to make his debut away to Norwich next Saturday. The importance of Debuchy adapting to his new surroundings with immediate ease is clear, as he will become part of a side which has seen them lose 16 goals in their last five Premier League games.
As well as Debuchy, in order to oversee an improvement on this recent defensive record, Pardew will hope to be able to call upon the services of his captain Fabricio Coloccini at Carrow Road. The Argentine was not risked against Brighton after picking up a knock in last week’s 2-1 defeat to Everton but his return to both the side and to form would go some ways to easing the worries of his manager.
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