ALAN Pardew has warned that Newcastle United are still "a long way" from Premier League safety despite their recent Gallic-infused renaissance.
An upbeat Pardew was able to collect the positives from a battling performance at White Hart Lane, not least the continued threat posed by goalscorer Yoan Gouffran in the defeat to Tottenham.
He said he was now “excited” about selecting his team such were the offensive options at his disposal, and said the prospect of picking a front four of Gouffran, Moussa Sissoko, Hatem Ben Arfa and Papiss Cissé for the Southampton game is “mouth-watering”.
But those positives came with a stark warning to his Magpies that they are far from free of the threat of relegation. He asserted that if points were shaved off the four-point gap to the bottom three over the coming weeks it would ramp up the “pressure” on his side.
“For sure, we need to get a couple of wins,” he said. “Pressure is a funny thing.
“For a big club like us it will be even more pressure, so we need to make sure we keep that distance. We knew that this was a tough game, we wanted to take something out of it.
“We haven’t, and then we had to hope the results went our way to keep the pressure off, and a good win at Southampton at home would put us in a decent position. But we’re a long way from that still.”
United breathed a sigh of relief on Saturday night after X-rays confirmed that Gouffran, who had to be stretchered off the field after a challenge by Kyle Walker, had not suffered a broken shin.
That means that Newcastle may be able to field a four-pronged attack to take on Southampton, with Ben Arfa teed up for a “possible” comeback.
“You’d like to think with him on one side, Ben Arfa on the other side and Sissoko and Cissé – blimey, that’s mouthwatering for us,” he said.
“I think there’s a possibility Hatem will be back for the next home game.”
Another positive for Pardew is the plethora of engine-room options he has – along with the terrific performance of Yohan Cabaye.
“Cabaye has been a bigger bonus that perhaps the boys I’ve brought in. He’s as good a footballer as I’ve worked with,” he said.
“You put Cheick (Tioté) and Sissoko in there and we have got a really, really good side if we can get it out on the pitch. Unfortunately this year we haven’t even come close to getting it out there. This is actually the closest I’ve come to putting my strongest side out.
“It does excite me, it really does. I really looked forward to Saturday’s game and I’ve not done that all year. Some of the teams I’ve had to select from, the squad’s been really shallow, but I put a good side out today and they gave a good account of themselves.”
Ultimately Saturday’s match was decided by Gareth Bale, who is drawing comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo. Pardew said that his team’s plans to stop the Wales winger had gone okay, but they just couldn’t do anything to prevent him scoring twice.
“The way we look at teams, the way we set up for teams – I have to say we did a lot of work on trying to stop him,” he said.
“We did, but there are still moments when he creates that space. It’s his technique with the hit that’s the problem.
“He seems to connect true whether he’s off-balance or on-balance and that’s what makes him so difficult (to contend with).”
Metalist Kharkiv, who visit St James’ Park on Thursday for a Europa League round of 32 first leg tie, were held to a 1-1 draw by Whitley Bay yesterday.
Lee Scroggins put the Ebac Northern League side ahead in the friendly at Hillheads. Brazilian midfielder Marlos equalised before the interval.