We may only be at the fledgling stage of a marathon season but for the neutral at least, seeing Newcastle United in the Premier League’s top four makes for pleasant reading. Alan Pardew’s men are currently disrupting the stranglehold the top six teams in the country, generally have, on the Champions League places.
Their start to the season represents their most successful in 17 years and is as much unexpected as it is refreshing. Considering the calibre of players who have left the club since January, many predicated a season coated in struggle rather than prosperity. Andy Carroll began the exodus with his Liverpool move, whilst Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton and Jose Enrique have all followed suit since the summer. Many clubs would crumble after such egression, but Pardew has refused to linger on such high profile exits. Instead, he is laying down his own foundations in building an industrious and resolute side.
Carroll’s departure meant a new striker was required to offer some consistency. Demba Ba and Leon Best have since taken their chances, with both now looking comfortable in that iconic black and white shirt – seven goals shared is testament enough. The manager inherited, and has indeed further harnessed, midfielder Cheik Tiote who is now a pivotal part of the St James’ Park set up. However, many would now argue the real jewel in this evolutionary crown is Yohan Cabaye, who since his £4.8m summer move from Lille, has looked a solid investment. Perhaps as importantly as replacing the departed Carroll, Pardew needed to fill the void created by Nolan and Barton, and in Cabaye and Tiote, the ex-West Ham manager has created a different dynamic in Newcastle’s midfield.
However, the early season success is down to more than their relative success in the attacking third as Newcastle also has the tightest defence across the top four divisions in England. Tim Krul has made the goalkeeping berth his own and his heroics in the recent 2-1 Molineux victory against Wolves has further helped repay some of the faith shown by his manager. Pardew’s men have conceded just four goals so far this term, and however obvious it may seem to mention, building from the back is a sensible footballing philosophy. Whilst the three teams above them – Man Utd, Man City and Chelsea – have scored a combined 64 goals, Newcastle’s nine goals may not depict the same offensive affluence, but Pardew’s squad is both still a work in progress, and represents a fraction of the cost of each of those three teams.
Their challenges will ultimately intensify as they have only played Arsenal from last season’s top four along with a derby clash against a struggling Sunderland side, but conversely, you can only play who is put in front of you. Invariably there is always a team who conjure up an early season surprise too, but they normally tail-off and in this campaign only time will tell. Nevertheless, Pardew has somehow used the departures of key men to help his squad evolve into a side currently exceeding expectation.
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