What a relief.
NUFC have stopped the rot of 4 straight defeats, got a clean sheet and scored three well worked goals in the 3-0 victory over Wigan. What is even more of a relief is the system and the strategy used for the Monday night win. The 4-3-3 has been begged and pleaded to come out of retirement by myself and others this season because it is the system that suits our players the best. Against Wigan we finally used it properly, passing the ball to each other and created space with movement and fluidity, as the players were completely comfortable playing in positions that suited them as well as the team overall. Hallelujah!
We were far from perfect but it was a damn sight better than kicking the ball long, bypassing midfield altogether into the two strikers. This way of playing is rigid, lazy and has no place with the type of players we have. I never want to see us play like that ever again. Hopefully the penny has finally dropped with Alan Pardew but we will only know over the next month. It wouldn’t surprise me if he decided to go back to hoofball. He’s done it before.
Our task was also made a hell of a lot easier with Wigan going down to 10 men very early on in the game, so we can’t really judge properly if this game will turn around our season. But a 3-0 win is a 3-0 win and nobody is complaining. What last night did was also remind me why I have gone completely cold to Alan Pardew and find it very difficult to warm to him again. At half time when we were 2-0 up at home against 10 men of Wigan’s quality, he sent the team out in a very Pardew like fashion of ‘let’s hold onto what we’ve got’. I despise this negative attitude and mentality. It drives me up the wall. Wigan couldn’t have been more there for the taking but we stood off them and laboured our way to the final whistle.
Wigan ended the game with 50% possession. How can this be? They had 10 men for 78 minutes in our stadium. Incredible really. Ever since AP has got his hands on this team he has introduced this negative way of thinking. It’s infectious. It doesn’t do us any favours whatsoever. We did it countless times last season and got away with it. The Wolves 2-2 draw was the best example to use as to when it doesn’t come off. How we failed to win that game against the worst team in the league being 2-0 up beggars belief. How Wigan arguably outplayed us on Monday night is a similarly mystifying. An explanation would be in the second half we worryingly looked like we had reverted back to 4-4-2 as Jonas did his deep lying winger routine and Bigirimana seemed to be on he right wing. If being outplayed with 10 men doesn’t prove 4-4-2 is diabolical, I don’t know what will?
However, I am not going to lay into the team or Pardew too much as I can fully understand us not wanting to over exert ourselves given our injury problems and mass of games at the minute. Santon and Demba Ba hobbling off with muscle strains proved it. Hopefully both players will be back for the trip to Fulham next Monday as well as Ben Arfa and Obertan recovering from their injuries. Given Fulham’s lack of form at the minute if could be a great chance for us to win and create a gap from the relegation zone with Man City, Man Utd away and Arsenal away to come before the end of 2012.
Before the Fulham game we have a trip to Bordeaux to contend with which will no doubt be contested by our second string of players. The Ameobi’s, Amalfitano’s and Tavernier’s of our world, which I am actually looking forward to watching to see how they get on. It’s in my opinion that our squad in terms of depth and quality is vastly underrated and under appreciated by not just our fans but bizarrely and infuriatingly by our manager. We have one of the best squads I can ever remember us having in my time and the fact we have qualified from the Euro group undefeated shows it, given the players that have actually contested that tournament. The win against Wigan also completely exposed and made a mockery of Pardews excuse of ‘injuries’ being the reason we are in 14th place in the league.Our 3 most impressive performers Monday night were Sylvain Marveaux, Vurnon Anita and Gael Bigirimana. All of which were replacements for 3 key players in our first team. Marv for Ben Arfa, Anita for Cabaye and Bigi for Tiote at half time. Their performances proved without any shadow of a doubt how good our squad is. We can replace world class quality with Premier League class quality. How many teams can say that? Not many. I have been pulling my hair out this year having to listen to the excuses spewed out constantly about why we are failing. They are all complete tripe. All the injuries and Europa league trips explain is why we are not challenging the Top 4. They do not explain why we are hovering above the bottom 4. There’s a big difference that seems completely lost on the sheep that follow every word Pardew says.
The squad we have should not be in the bottom half of the league unless we have an outbreak of a virus that wipes out the entire first XI. Not just 2 or 3 injuries at a time. Like Anita, Marveaux, Bigirimana, Ferguson, Williamson, Perch and the Ameobi’s have showed is that when they are called upon they are good enough to play for our first team. They even have qualified our football club for the knock out rounds in Europe and have now prevented us from suffering 5 defeats in a row by putting aside Wigan comfortably. How much more proof do you need?
We have quality back up players in our squad. You could argue a Marveaux is better than Jonas. A Ferguson would be a better option than a Simpson. The 3-0 victory with three key players out injured has made a mockery of Pardews excuses and exposed the glaring truth that insisting on 4-4-2 hoofball has been the biggest problem to our season. It has been his own incompetence and nothing else. If he is any kind of a decent manager he will stick with this 4-3-3 formation no matter who is fit, no matter who is injured, no matter who the opposition, no matter what day of the week it is and cut the excuses out. System first > team selection second.If we are to turn this dire league season around then we have to give the players we have available the best chance of doing it. Insisting on them lumping it with no width or link up play is for school kids and Stoke. In the 3-0 win we only played 51 long balls compared to the season average of 76 (which is shockingly the highest in the league by any team), this shows how much better we are as a team when we look to pass it. Our three goals were brilliantly worked with first time passing, clever movement and driving at the oppositions goal. Cisse coming off the right to link up with Demba forced the penalty and changed the game. Our third goal came from perfect counter attack play, with clever off the ball runs and picking out the right pass. Then walloped in the top corner by 18 year old Bigi. He’ll remember that one forever.
Our team last night were settled. They were comfortable. They won, easily. The team we have watched all season have been far from any of these characteristics and have failed to win more often then not. The penny of ditching the senseless pre-historic nonsense of 4-4-2 kick it long has to have dropped once and for all. It doesn’t take a genius to work out how and why we won Monday night. It would take a moron to change it.
In Pardew We Trust?