ALAN Pardew has apologised to Jonás Gutiérrez for clipping his wings this season – and says that he must take some of the blame for his winger’s subdued performances, writes MARK DOUGLAS.
The Newcastle boss has deployed Gutiérrez in a central midfield role or as part of a “narrower” three-man midfield as part of a tactical reshuffle this term, but admits that it has dulled the impact of one of last season’s star men.
In a candid midweek interview, Pardew pin-pointed Gutiérrez as one of his key men who had struggled to match the heights of last season – before confirming that he would “stand with” the midfielder and not drop him.
To be fair Gutiérrez (pictured below) has been playing through the pain barrier for large parts of the campaign, although Pardew says that his injury has cleared up and expects him to start today’s crunch clash with QPR.
In a heavy hint that he will try to move Gutiérrez back onto the wing, he admitted that playing him more centrally had caused many of the Argentinian’s problems this term.
“Yeah, and I think that (his new position) perhaps that hasn’t helped him,” he said. “I take some criticism for that. I’ve played him narrower a little bit, and I think he’s got a fair argument to say that I should be playing him in position.”
Although Pardew shied away from hailing today’s game against Harry Redknapp’s improving QPR as a “must win”, he is well aware of the importance of the game to United’s festive fortunes.
They take on Manchester United, Arsenal and Everton over Christmas – a run of treacherous games that makes today’s Rangers clash all-important. Luckily for Pardew a clear seven days without a game gives him a week’s preparation, and has allowed him to work with Gutiérrez on the training pitch in a bid to solve a run of below-par performances.
“It’s something I’m working on with him, he’s an important player for us and an important character in the dressing-room,” he said.
“They’re important players, your big players.
“You’ve only got to look at Jonás; he signed a new contract last year, he was fantastic last season, an unsung hero in a lot of ways, balancing us up, taking us up the pitch, giving us a rest, and he has not been at his best.
“He’s had an injury he’s played with, we think he’s a lot better going into this game and I thought he improved significantly in the second half against City.
“I thought he looked more like his old self. We need him to play well.”