ALAN Pardew has pleaded for patience towards winger Gabriel Obertan – as Newcastle look set to keep faith with the jet-heeled midfielder for tonight’s crunch clash with West Brom.
Obertan was the subject of some ire from the St James’ Park faithful on Saturday as Newcastle struggled to break down a stubborn Swansea side.
A lack of cutting edge was the main accusation, perhaps understandable given United’s lack of goals against the Swans.
Pardew admits that his summer signing from Manchester United has not been the same player since he returned from a toe injury suffered after the 3-1 defeat of Stoke City.
The former France under-21 international turned in his best display at the Britannia but has struggled to consistently recreate that impact in successive home games.
Pardew feels his pace means that supporters often expect him to take on a defender every time he receives the ball, something that the United boss reckons would make him too predictable. So he is happy to see him cut inside once in a while – even if he is urging Obertan to come up with more end product.
“Our fans need to be patient with him as I and the staff need to be at times because we know what he can do,” Pardew said.
“I don’t think he has been as good as he was before he came out of the side with an injury.
“He hasn’t come back as good.
“He was good on Saturday in the first half and created a few dangerous moments for us.
“Because he is so quick the crowd think he can just beat the full-back by racing him on the outside all the time but he can’t do that, he’d be too one-dimensional.
“I think he’s only young and he’s still learning. He’s very young in term of his time playing, he’s hardly played.”
One accusation levelled at Obertan is that he doesn’t look enough of a goal threat.
“He is yet to find the net for Newcastle and with United struggling for goals from midfield – Yohan Cabaye’s two goals make him the top scorer from the engine room – it is something Pardew wants to see more of.
“That’s the next step for him,” the United boss said. “He’s got to look like he’s going to score a goal, getting in on the far post, cutting inside and releasing shots like Jonas does for us on the other side. He has to threaten the goal (now).”
Some of the goal threat might be reduced by losing the suspended Cabaye, who will be replaced by either Haris Vuckic or Mehdi Abeid tonight. The loss of the France midfielder will give him a pre-Christmas rest, but Pardew admits it is a blow.
“He will be missed because he has been magnificent for us so far this year,” he said. “We have come to take some of the stuff he does for granted, his passing, his switching of play and the way he manoeuvres the ball for us.
“He will be a loss but somewhere along the line he needed a rest probably. He has played for us and France and maybe when we go to Bolton he will freshen us up a bit.”
Meanwhile, Pardew has admitted that centre half is now a bigger priority than bringing in a centre forward.
He carried out a Dutch scouting mission over the weekend, looking at FC Twente’s Douglas, who may be a summer target. United made an offer for England under-21 international James Tomkins last week, but have no interest in Birmingham’s Curtis Davies, offered to them last week, or Villa’s James Collins.