As Moussa Sissoko stabbed the ball past Willy Caballero to send Newcastle United into the quarter-finals of the League Cup, you could sense a shift in momentum at the football club. On the pitch, on the bench and in the stands, fond memories were created on a special night in Manchester as the travelling Toon fans did an ironic Poznan to celebrate a famous 2-0 win.
The architect of the victory, Alan Pardew, had previously seen his relationship with the Newcastle faithful disintegrate. On this occasion he took rare moment to enjoy himself in the wake of a fine achievement.
“It was outstanding in discipline and the way they carried the threat all night,” Pardew said of his team.
“The pace in wide areas is something that I think is an asset for us.”
Indeed, the second quote is reflective of a change in attitude and approach from Pardew that has benefited his team immensely. The second half recovery against Tottenham at the weekend was the result of his tactical adjustments at half-time, as he unleashed Sammy Ameobi and Remy Cabella on an unsuspecting Tottenham outfit.
Newcastle turned that game around by applying more pressure on the ball and breaking forward with purpose. The increased fluidity during that second half recovery against Spurs was replicated against City, as Newcastle’s fringe players made light work of a team containing David Silva, Yaya Toure and Edin Dzeko.
Pardew has been roundly criticized over the past two seasons for Newcastle’s lack of consistency and direction, but against Spurs and City he has corrected himself. A team previously bereft of confidence and organization have been reinvigorated by the greater freedom afforded to them by their manager.
Where previously Newcastle were shackled by a rigid system that relied heavily on the same core players, the adjustments made over the last two games have roused the entire squad. Cabella – who was excellent against Tottenham – recently spoke of how being dropped to the bench by Pardew had spurred him on, after a slow start to life in English football.
Likewise, Moussa Sissoko seems to have been liberated by clearer tactical instructions afforded to him. His sudden return to form was capped by a superb individual goal against City, where Ryan Taylor’s return to football after two years provided a further psychological boost to players and fans.
Tactically, Pardew has shown signs of embracing the very quality that previously brought him success at Newcastle: adaptability. Rolando Aarons and Ayoze Perez have made match-winning contributions in the last two games, given starting berths despite their youth.
That Gabriel Obertan has also made crucial contributions during the current campaign is also telling, with Pardew looking to pace and aggression rather than containment and physique to kick-start his team’s campaign.
With Liverpool set to arrive at St James’ Park on Saturday, the opportunity now presents itself for Newcastle to make a real statement in the Premier League. Given the vulnerability of Brendan Rodgers’ side this season, Pardew must persist with the newfound approach and feed off the confidence and momentum generated by recent results.
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