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The stark realisation for Manchester United fans is that their Everton counterparts seem much happier without David Moyes. Even more so after their 1-0 win...
When we were looking through Saturday's uninspiring fixture list on Thursday, I joked to Sarah Winterburn that I could probably start writing a reaction piece to Newcastle v Fulham then and there, such was the predictability of the result and two pitiful performances. This contest yielded just a single goal last season - Papiss Cisse's last-minute winner at St James' Park - and it seemed certain another snoozefest was in store.
"You can't predict when you're going to score," said Alan Pardew after Hatem Ben Arfa's second-half screamer earned Newcastle a narrow victory. What you can predict, however, is that Pardew's team will struggle to score, having had just a single shot on target in their first two Premier League matches this season and amassing a meagre total of 45 goals last year. It was hard work on the pitch against Fulham and it was hard work watching as the Magpies increasingly looked to Ben Arfa to provide a moment of magic.
Pardew was typically bullish in his post-match interviews, praising his team's resilience and encouraging Joe Kinnear to find the extra striker the team apparently needs. But the manager's tunnel vision when it comes to strengthening his squad betrays his lack of imagination and unashamed willingness to burden Ben Arfa with the team's creative direction. Cisse, although in terrible form, and Loic Remy have both proven they can score goals in the Premier League, so why the desperation to sign only another forward? It is surely behind the front men where Newcastle require reinforcements.
The need for subtlety was a point I recently raised with Spurs in mind and the very same can be said of a Newcastle side bereft of ideas. Even when the Magpies fought their way to fifth in 2011/12, theirs was a limited, functional brand of football, illustrated by a ranking of joint-fifth in number of long balls played per game - improved to first place last season. Play it long and play it early was the mantra, and it was a tactic that worked to great success with Demba Ba adept at collecting high balls and finishing hopeful knockdowns.
But without Ba (who was Newcastle's top scorer in the Premier League last season despite leaving for Chelsea in January), it's clear that Pardew needs to devise a new method of attack, something that failed to materialise in last season's battle for survival. The manager may falsely believe that the win over Fulham will give his side the boost they need, but Newcastle's is not an acute sickness - their problems embedded over a year of absent ideas when the Magpies were propped up by four dreadful teams below them.
Pardew is a man of contradictions and his team reflect his split personality on the pitch. While he wishes to appear as the thinking man's manager, Pardew is in reality a fist-shaker, a bellower and the sort to shove an assistant. His players may have exotic names that roll off the tongue and inspire visions of beautiful, flowing football, but in truth they play an unimaginative kick and rush that offers not a single hint that Pardew is capable of providing something different. Indeed, if you asked the manager why and how his team won on Saturday, I doubt he could even provide a conclusive answer other than pointing to Ben Arfa's brilliance.
Another injury to Ben Arfa would leave Newcastle even more desperate for creativity and supporters even more frustrated. Mike Ashley chose not to remove Pardew in the summer, but the sword of Damocles still hangs over the manager's head and unless he can somehow introduce a more convincing style of play it is unlikely he will see out the season. In the grand scheme of things, a scrappy 1-0 win over Fulham changes nothing.
Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.