HE is Newcastle United’s forgotten man, but Alan Pardew admits the absence of long-term absentee Sylvain Marveaux is harming his squad.
The French winger is on track to make a return in late March after surgery and the United boss knows that the lack of competition in wide roles has led to a slight dip in the contribution of both Jonas Gutierrez and Gabriel Obertan, who has been the subject of some debate among United fans.
The former Manchester United man appeared to be performing better when Marveaux, out with a groin injury, was breathing down his neck. However, performances have dropped off since.
“He’s been a big miss and that competition he provided from the bench made the other two play very, very well,” he said.
“Against West Brom neither Jonas (Gutierrez) or (Gabriel) Obertan were at their best and that factor always helps, to have that competition.
“We’re hoping he comes back before the end. But we always felt that this period before the last two games would be difficult for us, but we came out the other side of them hurt with injuries and suspensions in particular – and that’s caused these last two results to be disappointing.
“That’s what we’ve got to put right.”
Pardew has come out in defence of Obertan, who has still to convince consistently while wearing a black-and-white shirt.
His reaction to questions about catcalls from the terraces towards Obertan was prickly in Thursday’s pre-match Press conference, and he has made it clear that he will continue to back the France winger.
To be fair, some of the criticism has been unfair but one Opta stat – that he has played 1,200 minutes this season without a shot on target – hints at the lack of cutting edge he is showing.
“I think we’re very much aware that Gabby has come back from injury and he’s trying to find his way in the team again,” Pardew said.
“He’s been terrific for us and he’s only a young player and as far as I’m concerned that’s something we’ll deal with privately.”