EPL Soccer: What has happened to Newcastle?

Rodallega v Newcastle

Courtesy of NUFC.com

Last season’s surprise package, Newcastle United, has had a dismal Premier League season so far, with the situation now getting beyond the point of  ”just a bad start.”.

For Magpie fans, their return to the top 5 last season for the first time since 2004 was a brief high under Alan Pardew. As they now sit just 4 points above the relegation zone, with dreams of European football quickly running away from them.

Newcastle’s recent loss to Fulham underlined their troubles. With yet another away defeat, they are still win less away from home.

The brilliance in the combination of the Sengal strike force; Demba Ba and Papa Demba Cisse has quickly been forgotten with a combined total of 14 goals between them, it’s not quite what most expected following their remarkable campaign last season.

Newcastle seem to lack that togetherness and fighting spirit that could be seen under Pardew last season. There doesn’t seem to be a never say die attitude anymore, that can be seen in the likes of Everton. Newcastle have now failed to come win from a losing position in the Premier League in over two years.

With just 17 points in 16 games, Pardew is begining to get worried.

“I’m worried in so much as we are not picking up enough points, that is pretty evident,”

“The performances against Stoke, Wigan and today have improved, but it is a worry we don’t have enough points.”

But does part of the problem currently for the Geordies lie with Pardew himself? A new 8 year contract was signed at the start of the season, with owner Mike Ashley showing his faith in the man who steered Newcastle back into European Football.

This 8 year contract is likely to have at least lifted the pressure of Pardew a little, with the total backing from the board a little too much in my opinion. Longevity and stability is a different matter to stupidity, and is an 8 year contract a mistake?

The blame can’t all be put down to that, if any. So where does the problem lie? The Europa League?

Yes, the rapidly declining in stature competition, The Europa League has seen Newcastle’s league season littered European travels pushing their League games to Sundays due to the Thursday night European fixtures. In a competition that isn’t a high priority for the Geordies you can see that the infrequent weekly breaks and League momentum has hindered their form.

But again, it can’t be entirely to blame, with another sloppy goal conceded away at Fulham; Hugo Rodallega left unmarked to head home. Newcastle just don’t look that same team – As Pardew has pointed out, they don’t look far off a very good side, but such errors need to be ironed out soon.

There are some positives for Newcastle though. The return of French midfielder, Hatem Ben Arfa has again shown the quality that they do posses, and in Ben Arfa it’s a match winner that they have been perhaps crying out for. His goal against Fulham from outside the box  underlines his ability to create something from nothing.

Newcastle also will be thankful to see how close the League table is from that crucial 4th spot only 9 points away from their position, 14th. But it’s going to need a strong turn around in fortunes if they genially believe such an achievement is possible.

The pressure will return to Pardew if things don’t turn around, as well as, quite hard to believe actually, those relegation places.

Cheick Tiote Newcastle United

Courtesy of Zimbio.com ( Ivorian Cheick Tiote will be missed during this winter)

You’d expect Newcastle will be on the look out for new acquisitions come the January transfer window. A new defender and another solid midfielder wouldn’t be a bad addition. Newcastle can also be thankful that their strike partnership, Demba Ba and Papa Demba Cisse won’t be flying off to the Africa Cup of Nations during the coming months, with their nation, Senegal banned from the competition. But, midfielder, Chieck Tiote will be. The Ivorian’s battling spirit and defensive qualities are something that Newcastle could really do with to get themselves out of this trouble.

However, Newcastle must now face a month that could define their season this December, with fixtures against champions Manchester City and battling Queens Park Rangers at home followed by trips to league leaders Manchester United and then Arsenal.

By Stowe Gregory @stowegregory

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