ALAN Pardew admits that Newcastle United’s priority is now avoiding the drop after their festive fortunes took a nosedive in incredible circumstances to leave them just three points clear of danger.
It was a day of implausible contrasts at the Emirates on Saturday, Newcastle attacking with vim and vigour but defending as poorly as during any period in recent memory. They shipped seven for the first time in Premeir League history and were the architects of their own downfall in the build-up to most of those goals.
In a disastrous last quarter of an hour that exposed United’s fatigue and the lack of resources available to Pardew, Theo Walcott scored a hat-trick and substitute Olivier Giroud notched two to inflict a heavy defeat on struggling United.
United are three clear of Southampton, who have a game in hand. A bigger concern is that they have lost eight of their last ten and have conceded goals at an alarming rate over Christmas. Talk of qualifying for Europe has dissolved and the clear message from the black and white camp is that they are in a battle at the bottom.
It is a stark message from Pardew, although he mitigates it with the belief that the return of several of his blue chip players will move them away from danger. “I’ve never looked away from the bottom if I’m honest, and I think every Premier League manager outside of the top four or five clubs who doesn’t look at 40 points first is telling a fib,” he admitted.
“You need to look at that first, and we’re still 20 points short at the moment so we’ve got a bit to do. Of course I’m confident that we will get out of it. We have good
players to come back and we’re going to make an impact somewhere in this league at some point.
“But we don’t want to leave it too late and my priority is to get the best team out on the pitch as soon as I can. I have got some better news coming along with Steven Taylor and Cabaye, and just one of those coming back will be significant. I hope they will be coming back soon.”
Pardew admitted the scoreline was unacceptable for Newcastle and saw United’s fatigue – as opposed to Arsenal’s freshness after not playing on Boxing Day – as critical.
But a deeper concern was United’s inability to defend in the manner Pardew expects, which he laid at the door of the club’s horrendous injury problems. There was sympathy for Tim Krul, who he said was left “exposed” by his team-mates.
“We conceded seven goals and we can’t do that. I’m disappointed with the scoreline, I really am. As I say though, when I’m looking from the sideline, there was a definite difference between the two teams in terms of energy levels,” Pardew said.
“We’ve got a home game next and we like to think we can win our home games, but we knew this was going to be a difficult run.
“When we got the fixture sheet in August, we knew that this little run would be difficult.
“But to do it without any of the players we’ve got missing – no Gutiérrez, Cabaye, Ben Arfa and you could name six or seven players who could have made a different today – we just haven’t got them available so we’re really fighting.
“We’re trying to find something within our squad, and we have found a couple of bonuses in Marveaux and Obertan, who I thought were both excellent today.
“Of course I’d like to hold on to everyone we’ve got, but Demba Ba is a bit out of my hands and there’s not a lot we can do about that. It will be what it’s going to be.”
The defeat puts the spotlight on Newcastle’s January recruitment drive. The Journal understands Newcastle want to do business early but Pardew was sounding a cautious note – while admitting a defender is required.
“I’m not quite sure about (transfers). All transfers are difficult. That really isn’t my department. Fingers crossed there is a player who comes in early,” he said.