With Chelsea distracted by the possibility of a first Champions League final victory, and Tottenham’s continued slump in form, Newcastle United appears to be in a prime position to claim the final Champions League spot, a remarkable feat for a club who arguably sold, at the time, three of their best players in Andy Carroll, Joey Barton and Jose Enrique.
Pardew’s transformation of the Magpies, along with chief scout Graham Carr, is even more astounding considering the lack of initial support for him shown by the Newcastle fans. Plus, with Pardew having to contend with unpredictable owner Mike Ashley. All this has been handled superbly. But, even if they miss out on Champions League football, expectations will be drastically raised and unless Pardew and his team can maintain their great performances, sooner or later the Newcastle manager could unfairly be shown the door.
The Impact of European Football
Whether it be in the Champions League or the Europa League, Newcastle will be featuring in a European competition for the first time since the 2006/2007 season. Teams often struggle to juggle competing domestically and in Europe, as shown by Tottenham’s inability to retain a top four finish last season, and this could well be the case for Newcastle. Whereas Man City, Man Utd and Chelsea all have the squad depth to employ an effective rotation system, Newcastle do not, relying primarily on their key players. That being said however, many would’ve expected the Magpies defense to falter after the long-term injury to defender Steven Taylor, but Williamson, Perch and Coloccini have all stepped up terrifically, especially the Argentine, who is having his best season since his £10 million move in 2008. The impending financial fair play regulations may on the surface help Newcastle’s fight for regular European football, as clubs such as Liverpool cannot go on massive spending sprees like they did last summer. However, the vast difference in club revenues means that the teams around Newcastle will still be able to offer higher wages and higher transfer fees, therefore attracting better players. The trio of London clubs and Liverpool have all had relatively poor seasons and are likely to improve their squads in the summer, leaving Pardew with the pressure of purchasing yet more super-signings.
Buy Don’t Sell
Reinforcements are needed if Newcastle wants to remain amongst the English elite. Pardew has been fortunate that, other than Taylor’s injury, he has been able to field largely the same side every week. This is especially remarkable as the club have taken risks on potentially injury prone players in Ba, Ben Arfa and Marveaux. They have also had fairly short cup runs in comparison to Spurs and Chelsea, and so have been able to remain focused solely on the Premier League. Mike Ashley may be tempted to cash in on players like Cabaye, Tiote and Ba, but this would ultimately see Newcastle slip back down the table, possibly leading to trigger-happy Ashley ousting Pardew; the chairman’s rash nature has been shown on many occasions, such as the sacking of Pardew’s predecessor Chris Hughton. The purchase of Cisse in January just when Ba’s goals were starting to dry up has proved to be one of the signings of the season, and although Ba’s scoring form has understandably dropped since being shifted to the left, pressure would’ve mounted on the Senegalese striker to consistently find the back of the net had his international teammate not joined from Freiburg.
The Last Time Pardew Overachieved…
Pardew has been in a similar situation before with West Ham. After gaining promotion to the Premier League in a playoff final against Preston, Pardew’s side finished 9th in the Premier League and narrowly lost the FA Cup final on penalties after Steven Gerrard’s dramatic equaliser at the end of normal time in the 2005-2006 season. And after the controversial signings of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, it looked as if West Ham could genuinely become a force in the Premier League. However, Pardew could not maintain the good form that had led to the side’s top half finish the season before and was sacked in December of that year. Now obviously a similar situation may not develop this time around as Pardew has clearly progressed as a manager since then, but it shows the consequences of overachieving. Had West Ham have narrowly avoided relegation the year before, the 17th place he left the club in may not have looked so bad, but because of the top-half finish the previous season, expectations were raised.
Likewise, many tipped Newcastle to be in a relegation scrap this year, with no one realistically predicting the club to be competing with Chelsea and Tottenham for Champions League qualification. A complete reversal could happen next year with no one expecting Newcastle to be in the bottom half of the table, and if the Magpies cannot sustain another top 8 finish, it could well be a disappointing end to Pardew’s tenure at St James’.