In the aftermath of the 0-3 loss to Sunderland, many Newcastle fans have spoken out wondering if Alan Pardew's status as manager of the club should be reconsidered. Callum and I disagreed on this matter, so we decided to exchange a couple of emails and post them here for further discussion. We went a couple of rounds, and I think we could have kept going several more, but I wanted to go ahead and post the discussion to get some reaction and let other people in on the conversation. Welcome to Magpie vs. Magpie.
I remember last season, the time we were well beaten by Fulham and I started to have my doubts about Alan Pardew and it appears now that a lot of people have the same doubts. Make no mistake about it, I thank him for last season but we appear to be heading the way of his ex-club Charlton Athletic. Great first season, disastrous second season.
We have a great squad at Newcastle, and it is clear that we are in a false position. Numerous factors could be blamed such as the lack of investment in the summer and the loss of Demba Ba in January. But with our squad, Alan Pardew should be doing better. His stubbornness to change the system is starting to become unforgivable. If it’s broke, most people would make an effort to change it, something that Pardew refuses to do. The 4-2-3-1 system he adopts week in week out is ineffective, much like his motivation skills. The fact that the players didn’t look up for the match against Sunderland is unforgivable, much like the decision to give them the Monday off.
He seems to like versatile players, something I haven’t got a problem with - unless he decides to play Sissoko, who during his time with Toulouse was a CDM, on a wing, which is about as useful as a chocolate teapot. One good game in an attacking role and Pardew has his mind made up, even after Sissoko’s dip in form.
His tactical ineptness coupled with his poor player judgment are just two reasons I’m part of the Pardew out camp.
For me, the #1 reason Alan Pardew has to stay is stability. That's not to say that he should be immune from criticism or receive any kind of free piece for the sake of not shaking things up, but I believe a managerial change would be counterproductive at this point in time.
I'm not even sure the criticisms levied against him are valid, honestly. Football is a results-oriented business, but making personnel decisions solely on performance is a fallacy. To be sure, if you're going to accept the Manager of the Year award when your team overachieves, you should feel the heat when they underachieve the very next season. That doesn't mean dumping him is a smart decision.
In my mind, the football manager has two major jobs: Motivate the players and set the tactics. We can talk tactics all you like. I've been frustrated by Pardew's stubbornness like most Newcastle fans have, but he's been hamstrung all year long, whether by injury or squad depth or the full fixture list. I was also frustrated by the excuses he made for the derby performance this week - I had to refrain from breaking my computer when he mentioned the wind. Still, we should be careful not to conflate "He makes excuses" with "He's been dealt a pretty bad hand." As I mentioned, there's also the man management part of the job. A manager has to keep dozens of inflated egos in check and get everybody to work together as one. Again, we can judge how he has done this part of his job based on results, or we can evaluate the process. Most of us aren't privy to the internal affairs of the club, but by all accounts, Pardew excels at giving his players a chance to succeed.
It all comes back to stability. I don't think Pardew should be sacked, and I don't think he will be, either. He made a shrewd political move a couple of months ago when he installed Yohan Cabaye as captain in Fabricio Coloccini's absence. There's no doubt at all that Pardew has Cabaye's ear, and Cabaye in turn has the ear of every Frenchman in that dressing room. He personally recruited Mathieu Debuchy and was reportedly a major reason many others made the jump over to Newcastle in January.
So let's say the club avoids relegation, but Mike Ashley decides to eat Pardew's buyout and send him on his merry way. For starters, who is the replacement? Martin O'Neill? Second, what happens to Cabaye? All of a sudden, it's a little harder for him to ignore PSG or Manchester United when they come calling. Then what happens to his countrymen? Stability: It's important.
I don't believe Alan Pardew is the best tactician in the world. I do believe he is a good one. Over the almost two and half years he's been in charge, we've praised him on a number of occasions for deploying a smart game plan. The 0-0 draw at Anzhi Makhachkala is perhaps the most recent one, but several others come to mind without looking: The way he neutralized Stoke City at their place last season, this year's opening win against Tottenham Hotspur, the Sissoko game against Chelsea. He's done enough to prove himself worthy of the job.
All very fair points there, but there is no room for sentiment in football. He may have won the Manager of the Year award last season but the fact remains he has somewhat imploded on himself this season. I’m all for stability, but I don’t believe he is the right man to keep at the club for years to come. Give him until the end of the season and then look at other options out there. Possibly a Ligue 1 Manager to keep in tone with our Gallic relations.
I don’t even believe we can blame the lack of squad depth for this season's struggle. We have used 33 players this Premier League campaign, more than any other team. Sure, we didn’t have the luxury of using those players in our Europe League adventure, but we did have the option of rotating come the Sundays and the Premier League matches. The excuses are infuriating, but every manager uses them so I’m happy to overlook that, as long as it isn’t to ridiculous. I don’t know which direction we have gone under Pardew. He had his honeymoon period which lasted around 18 months, but we have went backwards since, there is nothing to suggest that Chris Hughton would have done a worse job. I’m not saying I want him back, but we might have been in a better position now.
I personally believe that Pardew doesn’t have much of a say when it comes to transfers. Even if he did, it’s hard to say no to a player Graham Carr has suggested. But the player we are led to believe was a Pardew buy is the biggest ‘flop’ in the squad: Obertan. Now, surely if a manager isn’t privy to a transfer on his own he can’t possibly run a football club, can he? I’ll give him his dues, making Cabaye captain was a shrewd move and something he needs to be applauded for. But then to play him when he is clearly unfit and massively out of form defies logic. From what I’m led to believe Cabaye was sold on the idea of Newcastle by the thought of nice football and a progressing club. We play hoof-ball and are going backwards. I don’t think he would fancy much more under Pardew, which is why Rudi Garcia of Lille would be an excellent managerial candidate.
Cabaye and his fellow compatriots would be happy with this decision, and the option to stay at Newcastle would look that all and more enticing. Playing under his ex-manager, while captain of a club where he is adored by the fans could persuade him to end his days at Newcastle. Garcia also has won trophies, whereas Pardew has won one: The Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
This season the team look to have came into some games and just think it is already won. The Sunderland game for example. Only he could have installed this attitude and it needs to be changed. Is he the man to motivate his players for a local derby or a relegation scrap? Personally, I don’t think so. It’s been a while since I’ve come away from watching a Newcastle match and thought "Pardew got today spot on," because even when we do play well, it’s for one half. The players need to play for both halves and really get at teams. Because when we do we could beat anyone, but yet Pardew has adopted a defensive approach in a team where attacking is arguably our standout feature.
I do hope we achieve stability one day, but under Pardew I can see us struggling each season, for me a change is needed come May. I’ve not seen enough this season to believe he warrants another season in charge, because with the new TV deals next year it will be a harder league, and we can’t afford another season like this. I say we show some ambition and try to get a manager who has a winning mentality and some decent tactical savvy. I think we are a club who can go places - under a new manager.
Hey, I'm glad we can agree that stability is important! Maybe the difference is I'm not so sure it's that easy to go get a Rudi Garcia type. Pardew has shown that he can succeed here, and part of the reason I don't want him gone is fear of the unknown. Unless Mike Ashley can land a big fish, the new manager will be unproven, just like Alan was when he showed up. At least with him, we know what is possible.
I didn't know that stat about how many players had put on a Newcastle shirt in the Premier League; it's a pretty damning one. I'm still not sure you can pin this season entirely on the manager. Earlier today, I sat down and asked myself this question: "Who are the most important players in the squad?" I'm talking about the influential players who can change a game with their presence and who are automatic selections when healthy. For the sake of the conversation, I only let myself players who have been here all year. I came up with six: Tim Krul, Fabricio Coloccini, Cheik Tiote, Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa, and Papiss Cisse. We can argue about the list, if you'd like. If you want to add Steven Taylor, I won't fight you. If you want to remove Cheik Tiote, I will fight you, but I'll understand why. How many Premier League matches do you think Newcastle have played this year where all six of the players I identified featured? Before going back and counting, I thought the number would be quite low, maybe 5 or 6. The answer is actually ZERO. At no point during the 2012-13 campaign has Alan Pardew had all of his most important players available for selection.
This season has been a lost season. An epidemic of injuries, extra fixtures, and lack of squad depth have kept Newcastle from being what they can be. The best way forward in my opinion is to stay the course, invest in the squad, and hope for better luck next time around. I'd hate for management to make a rash decision based on factors outside of the manager's control. I'll concede the tactical points, but Alan Pardew deserves another year.