Saturday’s 4-0 demolition at the hands of Southampton reaffirmed the need for Newcastle United to make big changes in the summer. Sports writer Steph Clark looks at five key decisions that will have to be made inside the walls of St James’ Park.
Is Alan Pardew the right man?
Talk of summer arrivals and departures has centred on the playing squad, but whether Pardew is the right man to lead such a drastic overhaul poses a more important question. Supporters are becoming increasingly frustrated by the team’s lack of focus, commitment and tactics.
The Magpies boss talked up his return to the dressing room at the weekend and the impact his presence would have following a three-match stadium ban, but even after a half-time team talk when his side were miraculously only one goal down and still in the game, nothing changed. In fact, it only got worse and that is a big worry.
Decisions have been taken out of his hands and he has been left to answer difficult questions on his own, but you can’t ignore the alarming stat that they have conceded three or more goals 18 times under Pardew.
At this stage a lot of supporters would welcome a change but will Mike Ashley, the man who handed him an eight-year contract, really share the same view? Unless Newcastle slip out of the top ten, it is highly unlikely, but even if it did happen a replacement would have to work with the same constraints Pardew has.
Who will be part of the boardroom shake-up?
With no managing director following Derek Llambias' exit last summer, and no director of football after Joe Kinnear was removed from his position in February, there is a lack of boardroom leadership beneath Ashley.
After Kinnear’s disastrous eight months in charge, it is understood the sportswear magnate would prefer to promote from within when rebuilding his team. Club secretary Lee Charnley has risen to a more prominent role recently and it is understood Ashley is contemplating appointing him as managing director. Finance director John Iriving could also be given a more senior role, but does that represent an increase in power for two more ‘yes men’ in Ashley’s big plan.
Charnley, who was sat next to the owner at Southampton, has never given an interview to the media, although he has been present at fans’ forums. Bringing in someone new with a fresh outlook would benefit the club. Ashley has a repuation for sticking with people he regards as close confidants, but will the disastrous appointment of Joe Kinnear push him in another direction? History suggests probably not.
What does the future hold for certain high-profile players?
There could be several bodies filing through the exit doors at St James’ Park, but there are two players in particular whose long-term futures have to be addressed.
It is just over a year ago since Fabricio Coloccini first tired to orchestrate a move away from Tyneside and on Saturday the defender, who has been a rock for Newcastle so many times, looked out of sorts and disinterested. The club captain even refused to offer an apology or explanation when approached by The Northern Echo in the mixed zone at St Mary’s, and although Pardew insists he is confident the centre back will stay, he certainly didn’t cut a figure desperate to stick around.
Ben Arfa’s case is a difficult one. A player with undoubted talent that has shown the ability to change games has barely been used even after Yohan Cabaye departure and that points to a deeper-rooted problem. Selling the Frenchman may give Pardew one less issue to deal with, but it would stress an even greater importance on acquiring attacking reinforcements.
What will their strategy be in the transfer market?
If Ashley is going to sanction a number of summer signings, the men responsible with identifying and delivering those targets must be singing from the same hymn sheet.
Throughout the last two transfer windows Pardew has spoken of his desire to have more English players at his disposal, but instead the influx of French imports continued, championed by chief scout Graham Carr, who continues to focus on the foreign markets in a bid to deliver young, cheap talent with decent sell on prospects to follow Ashley’s blueprint.
That has worked to some extent when you look at the impact of Cabaye and Debuchy, but on Saturday Southampton’s English contingent were far superior all over the pitch, while Newcastle – bar Rob Elliot – shirked any responsibility.
Will young players be given a chance?
The need to improve the number of successful academy graduates has been highlighted recently after the club was awarded Category One status as part of the Premier League’s Elite Players’ Performance Plan (EPPP), but Newcastle need to show more dedication to giving their young stars a chance.
Adam Armstrong is the latest player to break into the first-team squad, but several players, all once backed to have big futures at the club, are nowhere to be seen. Haris Vuckic and James Tavernier were sent out on loan to Rotherham and have both been part of a side that is currently enjoying a 15-game unbeaten run.
Newcastle were rolled over at Southampton on Saturday
Right-back Tavernier has scored five goals for the Millers and with Debuchy the only natural right-back at the club, you wonder whether he will be given a chance to shine or be shipped out permanently. Gael Bigirimana and Adam Campbell are two other examples that have failed to live up to expectations, but why is that the case?