ALAN Pardew feels “tweaks” rather than extensive surgery will be the cure for Newcastle United’s festive ills.
United’s defeat against West Brom left them without a win in six and ramped up concern at the way their stretched squad is coping after a raft of suspensions and injuries conspired to make this a bleak mid-winter for his previously high-flying Magpies.
They remain seventh, but a Boxing Day trip to Bolton that would have prompted optimism just a few weeks ago now becomes a great deal more treacherous for a boss who can sense a “desperation” to end their poor run of form.
A bullish Pardew was defiant yesterday, defending his strategy and his squad.
While he knows that at least one centre-back is required in the January window, he was less optimistic about securing a striker to help shoulder the scoring burden that appears to currently rest squarely on in-form Demba Ba.
The Journal understands that contact has been made with Ajax’s Belgium international Jan Vertonghen – although it is too early to talk of a bid for the £10m-rated centre-back (pictured below). Nakhli Mondial, the agency that represent him, confirmed that there has been an enquiry about the 24-year-old.
He may be one of only a smattering of additions though, with Pardew adamant that his current crop have it within them to return to winning ways.
“I think we’re talking here about tweaks rather than surgery,” Pardew said, less than 24 hours after the disappointment of West Brom’s win. That’s what we’ve got to realise. We still had a lot of positives to come out of Wednesday night. Haris’ (Vuckic) performance, for a 19-year-old, will stand him in good stead whether he plays the next game or whenever I call upon him, he can go in with a good feeling.
“Cheick (Tiote) really needed that extra game last night because he hasn’t really done any work, so that was a good work-out for him and that’ll get him up to speed for Bolton.
“In terms of the team we just need to tweak a few things, and I’ll be sitting down with the team just to go through a few of the errors I thought we made last night, not individual errors, but team
errors.” Pardew spoke after the Albion defeat of a “desperation” to end their poor run and he will gather his players today to remind them of the need for discipline.
Of particular concern was the way they defended and became too attack-minded, putting the defensive gains of Saturday’s draw with Swansea at risk.
“The most important thing for us is that we don’t become desperate for a win and I thought at times we did that against West Brom,” he said.
“We over-committed players, we took risks with possession, things we haven’t really done all year, even in the defeats we had against Manchester City and Chelsea.
“West Brom was the first time I’ve seen that in the team and so that was a more frustrating loss than I’ve had at the football club for some time.”
Pardew hopes to welcome Mike Williamson back on Boxing Day. It would be a significant boost because Newcastle have suffered aerially since Steven Taylor suffered his season-ending Achilles problem.
“We’ve missed Steven more because we haven’t had Williamson. Because he’s the number one header of the ball we’ve suffered from that,” he said. “The last four or five goals against us have been set plays and that’s been significant. We’ve got to try and eradicate that.”
Pardew had maintained all along that Newcastle’s fine form would not last all campaign and he has been proved correct.
“Now it is up to his young team to prove their mettle when the pressure is on.
“I said all along that adversity is going to come our way,” he said.
“It comes, no matter who you are. And you’ve just got to make sure that the team responds in the right manner.
“That’s what we’re going to try and do.”