A bit of Dutch courage to control the middle ground

United Manager

United Manager

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.



  1. Well if you want to control the midfield then you will need some heavyweights like Tiote, but sadly to many want him on either the bench or at a different club, yet he is the best we have.


  2. imo cabaye/sissoko/anita are very commanding in themselves tracking back reading the game and putting a foot in when needed !

    young gosling is a puzzle though tbh ! he’s not involved for half a game but when he is involved he makes important clearances the would definatly have resulted in a goal or gets into atleast 1 goalscoring opertunity a game as well as pops up to set up a clear cut assist once or twice a game !

    is he worth making the midfield look weak when he’s in for those few moments where he saves us some goals and gets us some goals ? ugly team to get results or better looking team thats less effective maybe !


  3. Twelve months ago Tiote was lorded as being possibly the best we had, yet Cabaye, Ben Arfa, Cisse, Marveaux, Anita , and Jonas have done nothing in the same period yet in the knowledge that Tiote can cut it in the PL we abandon him for Cabaye, who has been so so at best even when finishing 5th he was ok and nothing spectacular, and Sissoko who has had 2 decent games since he joined us and Marveaux has at a total had 10 minutes worth of highlights in his entire Newcastle career, Anita has done nothing for us in his time here but I will concede that against West Ham and Fulham he has been tidy, not creative but tidy but certainly against Fulham as a holding midfielder he was never tested, yet even with all the negatives against these lads you put all the blame onto Tiote who is the only one to prove he can do an excellent job in different styles of play, he was superb with Chris Hughtons hit it long to Andy Carroll side, and he was superb in Alan Pardews 4-3-3- formation in the 2011/12 season, so why point the finger at the only proven top class player we have.


    1. Because he has proven that it was a false dawn based on the form of others, rather than his own ability. Point to me what Tiote has in his locker.

      Does he have pace? Can he pass the ball well? Does he carry the ball from deep? Does he provide killer passes? Whereas, we can look at the above players and say that they do have some of these qualities.

      To claim that he is the only top class player we have is very wide of the mark.


  4. tiote to me is in the same catagory as marv as in they have 1 job only that they can do (tiote defend and marv attack) i rate anita/cabaye/sissoko as better because they do a lot more in games and in my eyes we cant afford the luxury of half players unless there is 3 in midfield with no wingers.


  5. What has Cabaye, Anita, or Marveaux cocsistently proved what they can do better that what Tiote can, nothing is the answer, Cabaye hopefully will prove he can do what he failed to do last season by passing a ball, Marveaux you have to be kidding me, he has done nothing, and Anita, as I said tidy with square balls, but how many assists, about the same as Tiote, but when it comes to being a tank, there is no argument, Tiote releasing Cabaye and Sissoko is our best bet, but we need Tiote at his best, ps Ruddy, two years is hardly a false dawn, however one bad season can happen, even Shearer had a bad season.


    1. Well Anita, Marveaux and Sissoko need to be given as much a chance to prove themselves as Tiote has. Even in the short spell they have been in the team they have proved they are worth a shout ahead of him.

      What if we can’t get Tiote back to his best? If that’s the case then he simply won’t be good enough.


  6. Anita has has 12 months, Marveaux 2 seasons, how much time do they need, Sissoko fair enough, and I did have him in my strongest side, if Tiote does not get back to his best then we will have to see if there is a way of playing without him, but from what I have seen Tiote at his worst is still more effective than Marveaux at his best, if Tiote is still way out of form but Cabaye, Sissoko, Anita, Remy ,Cisse and Ben Arfa are bang in form then yes keep him on the bench, but that is the minimum 6 players and an out of form Tiote is better than most of the above who are out of form, at least he will still fight, can you say that about the rest of them ?


    1. Anita has had 12 months but he spent a lot of that time filling in at RB or coming off the bench. He never got an extended run in the side at CDM. Marveaux hasn’t had a run in the side either. Well why should Tiote be in the side if he isn’t bang on form? If others aren’t on form then they should be dropped and Tiote should come in and it should be up to him to keep his spot. If he doesn’t do the job then he should be dropped.

      There should be no automatic starters. Every single player should be picked on form. However, last season, Tiote was picked regardless of form, he was terrible and still got picked.

      He may have fight, but he doesn’t have quality. I’d rather most, if not all of the above, playing ahead of him.


  7. @spoof

    they have proved they wont miss half the season through suspension to start with 🙂
    no honestly do you really think cabaye/sissoko/anita/marv are not as good at passing or have better vision or a better shot than tiote ?

    tiote at his best is a beast and breaks up play great but short passing is the best of his passing skills (which is good as it keeps it simple for a player in his position)

    and tiote did prove in that first season he can be great i admit that and i do actually like tiote and hope he finds himself again but last season he proved he can be awfull also and the reason i would pick cabaye/anita/sissoko ahead of him is because of his lack of form compared to the others who are not playing as bad as him.


  8. Croftus, that’s not really the debate m8 as I have said that Tiote cannot pass a ball, I have never suggested that he could, what my argument is, is that with Cisse up front, who is lightweight and Remy who may be stronger but still not a heavyweight, and like wise in the centre of the defence with both Colo and Mbiwa not being heavyweight I feel that it would be essential to have Tiote in the side as we are severley lacking any physical strength, and as has also been discussed Barca, Real, Bayern and Borussia Dortmund do have physical players who dominate so their flair players can strut their stuff, but without Tiote I feel we will struggle against most sides to dominate the midfield, but to answer your question,no I do not feel that Tiote has a better passing range or more vision than those who you mentioned, but I wouldn’t have him in the side for his vision


  9. Spot on with formation and personnel. Think tiote will be a good squad player, anita is just a different class to him. Anita and sissoko are growing as a pair, throw cabaye into the mix and it might wake cabaye up knowing he is in a functioning midfield again! Like i have said many a time ‘you need intelligence in DM not a bruiser’! 2 prem clean sheets and 4 points in last 2 games and not a pardew favourite in sight. Hope alan has realised the way forward. But this is alan pardew ha!


    1. Bearsize, preaching to the choir my friend, I totally agree with you. I think Saturday is a big test of whether or not Pardew has seen the light and might actually get somewhere with this squad of players, or whether he is destined to forever be labelled as “tactically inept”


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