This week brought about yet another nonsensical comment from Newcastle manager Alan Pardew:
“We like to think we put down the right foundations here for success.
“All the players that have come here have improved, I can’t think of one who hasn’t.
“That is the most important thing when you are looking at your coaching strategy.”
This statement is not only incorrect, it is completely the opposite of what is actually happening at Newcastle United these days.
Let’s look first at Papiss Cisse. No one could have expected him to continue his immense form of his first season at Newcastle (14 games, 13 goals). However, during the seasons that have followed, we have seen a marked decline in Cisse’s belief, talent and instincts. Cisse’s 29 goals in 65 appearances, on paper, does not look bad but his performances have been nothing short of woeful in the past 18 months. Drained of confidence, he consistently drifts offside, misses chances and lacks any real presence to survive in the Premier League. Is this down to the player? Perhaps. Is it down to the coaching setup at United? More likely. What is clearly evident in Cisse’s play is that there is no one putting their arm around him and telling him he is the best striker at the club — a £10 million fee would demand that surely? Instead he has been cast aside for a loanee from QPR who himself hasn’t been in the greatest of form recently.
With Cisse, the tip of the iceberg is his huge problem with getting caught offside all the time. This is easily fixed yet seems to happen time and time again until the fans frustration has leaked down to the player and hammered his confidence. Has Cisse improved in his time at Newcastle? No.
Another example of a footballer who has declined in form at Newcastle is Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. When he joined Newcastle just over a year ago, he was seen as one of the most talented young centre backs in Europe. Captain of his championship winning side, Montpellier, and edging his way into the French squad, he seemed to be the real deal. What has subsequently happened is that of a complete player implosion. No longer considered for the French squad, he’s now a bench warmer at St James’ behind Fabricio Coloccini, Mike Williamson and Steven Taylor and often played out of position when eventually called upon. Much like Cisse, Mbiwa’s confidence has been shot. It would be wrong to say Mbiwa has been entirely blameless for this decline. Stupid decisions like last weekend’s when he hauled Samuel Eto’o to the ground for a penalty have littered the 24-year old’s United career thus far. However Newcastle’s coaching staff must also shoulder some of the blame.
What exactly is/was the plan for Mbiwa? Was he bought as a ready-made replacement for departing captain Coloccini? Was he supposed to be former Watford defender Williamson’s understudy? I do not think so. His decline has hastened so much that I would not be surprised to see Mbiwa pack his bags and head back over the channel in the summer. That was definitely not the plan. Has Yanga-Mbiwa improved at Newcastle? No.