Giving Credit To Pardew...We Think...

Sometimes Newcastle even stumble across a good idea. They're so chaotic you're never sure they mean it, but on this occasion Nick Miller gives Alan Pardew the credit...

Last Updated: 11/11/13 at 09:09 Post Comment

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You never know what's going to happen next at Newcastle. You think they're actually doing okay, with a coherent transfer policy and with a good scouting system then BAM - they appoint Joe Kinnear to oversee it all. By largely staying out of things and not doing anything too stupid for a bit, Mike Ashley was almost getting back into the fans' good (well, maybe just indifferent) books then BLAM - Wonga.

Those wild fluctuations also show in their results this season - they beat Aston Villa then lost to Hull. They lost to Sunderland then beat Chelsea. They're not a team you would like to hang your hat on. Unpredictability is good for the rest of us, because chaos is undeniably entertaining, but it's a miracle most Newcastle fans live past 35, such are the stresses and strains of supporting the club.

So unpredictable is life at Newcastle that they even occasionally stumble upon a good idea. Whether that's by accident or on purpose is sometimes difficult to tell, but for the moment we'll give Alan Pardew a little credit for their two incredibly impressive wins in a row against Chelsea and Tottenham.

In both games, Pardew seemed to get his tactics pretty much spot on. Both Chelsea and Spurs were not allowed to settle, hassled and harried and pressed in that way that is terribly fashionable these days. Barcelona, now Newcastle - it's the natural progression of football.

But seriously folks, it's a wonder more teams don't employ such tactics more often, given it 'only' takes high levels of fitness, rather than high levels of skill. The top teams combine both of course, and Southampton are probably the best example of that high-pressure game succeeding in England this season. It was a good strategy to use against this Spurs side in particular, with the safety of their high defensive line compromised somewhat by the absence of Hugo Lloris. Pressing combined with a more sluggish than usual backline will more than likely combine to produce defensive errors and thus plenty of chances, as their goal exemplified.

This of course explains the ostensibly curious decision to leave Hatem Ben Arfa out of the side in recent weeks. Ben Arfa is many things, but a reliable grafter is not one of them - while Shola Ameobi offers a tiny fraction of the Frenchman's skill, he performs a better role in this system, pushing opponents into creating chances through errors, rather than really creating them himself.

As the game went on, Newcastle were pushed further back, which was partly a consequence of Tottenham's increasing attacking desperation, but also partly could have been a conscious decision to defend deeper and soak up pressure.

While we can't see inside Pardew's head (which, on most occasions, is quite a relief) he may have reasoned that Spurs are currently struggling so badly to break down teams that they might as well sit back and let Spurs pass themselves into insignificance. Tim Krul made more saves than any other Premier League keeper in a single game this season, but while he was of course impressive, lots of those shots were either straight at him or weak. When a side are as blunt as Spurs are at present, you might as well point them in the direction of the goal and let them mess it up themselves.

Of course, that could be nonsense and Pardew might have just got lucky. But when it works in two successive games, you're more inclined to give him some credit.

After those two fine wins, a break for the internationals then a couple of pleasant home games against Norwich and West Brom would suggest Newcastle are in good shape to push on. Then again, this is Newcastle...

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