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Pardew hoping to sign proven headers in the summer
NEWCASTLE United will prioritise aerial ability when they look to strengthen their ranks this summer, with Alan Pardew admitting his side do not pose enough of a threat from set-pieces.
The Magpies have only scored once from a corner all season, and that was the result of a Demba Ba handball in September's 2-2 draw at Reading.
Despite boasting the likes of Yohan Cabaye and Sylvain Marveaux, who have a proven track record of effective set-piece delivery, Newcastle have failed to trouble opposition defences in the air.
That deficiency will be addressed in the summer, with Pardew having instructed his scouting team to focus on players at either end of the field with heading prowess.
In attack, Newcastle have already signalled a desire to make a renewed approach for Andy Carroll, although Liverpool's reluctance to sell the England international for less than £20m could scupper any attempt to engineer a deal.
In defence, the Magpies will be on the look-out for a new centre-half if Fabricio Coloccini returns to Argentina as expected, and heading ability will be a strong consideration when alternative options are assessed.
"Our record from set-pieces is definitely something I'll look at in the summer, 100 per cent," said Pardew. "In terms of the group, then when you take (Mike) Williamson and (Steven) Taylor out, we haven't really got a dominant header after those two."I think we need to add to that in the summer, and we will. We're coming up against Premier League sides with six foot four players, and we're finding it difficult to get that second or third header of the ball.
"That's what usually gets you the goal, and it's an area we're going to focus on in the summer."
In the meantime, Pardew accepts a need to take some of the goalscoring pressure off the shoulders of Papiss Cisse when his side travel to West Brom this afternoon.
The Senegal international has scored four of Newcastle's last five goals in all competitions, and if he is not firing at the moment, it is hard to see where Newcastle's goals are going to come from.
Moussa Sissoko has not scored since February's win over Southampton, while Yohan Cabaye boasts just six goals all season. Yoan Gouffran has scored once in a Newcastle shirt, with Jonas Gutierrez also having found the target only once all campaign.
"I wouldn't say there's an over-reliance (on Cisse) because he seems to be getting the goals that are very important for us, but we do need other players to chip in," said Pardew.
"We've talked all year about set plays, and people like Steven Taylor, (Mathieu) Debuchy, Gouffran, Sissoko and Cabaye have all got to chip in. We probably haven't had enough of that."
Hatem Ben Arfa is arguably Newcastle's most potent attacking midfield threat, but despite appearing as a substitute against both Benfica and Sunderland, Pardew still does not believe the Frenchman is fit enough to start.
Given his side's chronic injury problems all season, the Magpies manager is keen to do all he can to ensure Ben Arfa does not suffer another recurrence of his long-standing hamstring concern.
"I don't think he's ready," said Pardew. "He's working hard, but we still think he has a particular injury and we're trying to manage it to make sure we don't lose him for the last five games. We're trying to be very clever with him to get the best out of him."
Ben Arfa is expected to be on the bench at the Hawthorns, but neither Cheik Tiote nor Sylvain Marveaux will be involved in the squad in the Black Country. Tiote has damaged his hamstring, while Marveaux is nursing a groin injury.
"Cheik hasn't trained since Sunderland," said Pardew. "We don't think it's serious, and we think he'll be training next week and available for Liverpool. But he'll miss Saturday's game for sure. Sylvain will also miss out."
Fabricio Coloccini returned to training this week, but today's game will come too soon for the skipper, who has also been pencilled for a possible return against Liverpool in seven days time.
"Colo's training, although he hasn't done full physical work yet," said Pardew. "That's due to come next week, and fingers crossed that goes okay because it will be a big boost to us to have our captain back."