Author's note: The vast majority of this piece was written directly on the heels of the victory last weekend over West Brom. This is only important to note for two reasons: 1) There will be a certain amount of anachronism about it as it will at times not acknowledge the Swansea defeat, and 2) This is not a sky is falling piece. One result is one result, and patterns are patterns. One result (or four) won't change that substantially.
The art of "discourse" in the world today has been essentially ruined. Establish two sides of an argument and whomever shouts the loudest and interrupts the most surely must be the winner. We can leave the name calling component out of this particular discussion as it's not particularly germane to this situation, but the reduction really remains the same: one opinion is enough, thankyouverymuch and if you don't hold it, you must be mocked. "Awfully quiet from the #PardewOut folks, innit?" "Funny how the #PardewOut folks disappear when the club is winning". We are still out here, and the foundation of our argument is still just as valid.
On the heels of the embarrassing derby defeat, things have happened - namely a string of 4 consecutive victories that are providing the ammunition for those who want to have a go at those who have been and still are lacking confidence in our manager. Make no mistake, the run of results has been as gratifying as it has been unexpected (3-point results against Chelsea and Tottenham most specifically) - but the actuality has been a step or two away from "sheer dominance" that the on-paper view will suggest years from now.
12 points from the last 4 matches brings our total on the season to 23 points on the season, a plateau not reached until the 29th of January (the 24th league match) last season and more than half-way to that mythical 40-point safety level that seemed a more likely target for the season than any sort of European talk (let alone Champions League). As some have pointed out, there are difficulties with taking this vein of results as a sign of Newcastle in true ascendancy. There have been warning signs even if the players have done enough on each particular day to earn 3 points. Lessons from the 2011-12 season linger, and one of them includes what can happen to a team whose ultimate league position is incongruous with its goal difference. While 19 goals scored puts Newcastle squarely in good stead with their most immediate neighbors in the table, the unfortunate fact remains that 18 goals conceded puts us in the bottom half of the league table. In a pure goal difference world (which is admittedly too simplistic), the difference between ourselves and Stoke City — the team level with us on number of goals conceded — is the scorching form of Loïc Rémy, a player that a) isn't even ours and b) is the subject of increasing talk that he will not end up joining us at the end of the season.
Auth. note - HA! Remember when it was fun when we had a + gd?
When you boil down exactly what has led to our "great run of form" (up to the Swansea match, of course) you are left with the fact that Alan Pardew is uncomfortable at best with the players at his disposal. 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 are all relative — formations are necessarily fluid in nature during a match — but the 2013 "preferred XI" of our manager is hinged upon employing players out of position. Many people came away from the Swansea loss saying that Newcastle's players looked "tired" (#tiredbodies) which belies another problem in the management of the playing staff. Even our internationals played no more than 6 matches in the month of November... but if they were truly tired, there are players of enough quality in our squad that there are rotational (if not formational) permutations that should allow them to rest... yet they were not rested. We were fortunate enough during our winning streak to catch a couple of teams severely out of form - Alan Pardew's hammering his square-peg squad into a round-hole formation did not defeat Chelsea or Tottenham... and once we ran into a squad that was managed well and performing at a high level, the results showed themselves clearly. While the winning streak and its expression in the league table feels great, the truth of the situation is that things can easily and quickly go as badly as they have gone well recently. What we essentially have is a huge house that has significant damage to the exterior walls. The last several matches have wall-papered over the cracks and we're sitting inside feeling really great about ourselves and how beautiful it all looks. When the winter comes, however...