Last season Alan Pardew made the shocking revelation that he felt that games were won and lost in the middle of the park. He felt that if you controlled the possession, you controlled the game and as such, you had a better chance of winning it. Genius. So it stands to reason that Pardew thought our inability to control possession was a factor in our rather dismal performances last season. As early as October 2012, speaking to the Chronicle, Pardew had this to say
“This year the midfield is an area where we haven’t controlled it. We are having a good look in there.
“Last year we coped no problem with having two in midfield, so we could play two strikers.
“Sometimes we asked one of the strikers to defend the full-back when the opposition had possession. That is something we’ve done this year – the problem is that the fluency of our game comes through the midfield.”
As we moved forward through last season Pardew adapted his formations to address this key issue. Following our signings in January 2013 Pardew opted for a more robust, defensively minded 4-2-3-1, with Cisse operating as the lone striker. However, rather than helping us in our quest to control possession, we actually got worse at it in my opinion.This was due to Cisse’s inability to hold up the ball for longer than 2 seconds, coupled with the poor technique and ability of certain players who got more playing time than they should have (you know who they are!)
My view is that if Pardew is serious about controlling the midfield, and therefore, controlling possession, then there is a certain formation that he must use and certain players he must play within that system. When looking at the players we have available to us in our squad, I am adamant that a 4-3-3 formation best suits the talents of our best starting XI, and does not compromise on defensive solidity. If you need an education on how to use the 4-3-3 formation effectively, just take one look at Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool side. Their midfield three consists of a holding midfield player (Lucas), a box-to-box midfield player (Henderson) and a deep lying creative midfield player (Gerrard). I feel that, in Anita, Sissoko and Cabaye, we have all the necessary tools to provide a similarly effective set up. All that is required is for the Newcastle United manager to be a little bit more bold and ambitious. If we couple that midfield with an interchangeable front three of Gouffran, Remy and Ben Arfa then we could be a very potent threat indeed. I think Cisse needs to sit on the bench to sharpen his wits but we know, as does he, that that will never happen.
The first step in succeeding with this formation is giving Vurnon Anita a chance in this formation. There have been derogatory comments made about how the Dutch international is not strong enough, or big enough to make it in the top flight. From what I have seen from the former Ajax player, we have a very tidy footballer on our hands and we’d be remiss not to use him, or at the very least give him a chance.
However, following the return from injury of both Jonas Gutierrez and Chieck Tiote, this dreamt up formation will more than likely remain a figment of my imagination, and a dreary 4-2-3-1 will be the order of the day come Saturday.
I am willing to give Pardew one more chance to surprise me though. Don’t waste it Alan.
What do you think about my views on our best formation? Do you agree that Anita should be given a chance in the first team? Or is the return of both Tiote and Jonas a good thing for our progress this season? Let me know your thoughts.