Vurnon Anita has summed up the black-and-white mood by claiming this weekend’s game at Cardiff is as important as a Champions League game for Newcastle given the “worrying” state of the table.
Newcastle’s season looks to be heading towards a crossroads in Wales this weekend, where it will be seriously damaging for Alan Pardew and his squad if they deliver another performance like the first half against Everton.
The team’s inconsistency is raising questions about the direction of Pardew’s reign and also about the dressing room dynamic.
To deliver a performance like the first 45 minutes at Everton so soon after the Hull defeat is troubling – although both Pardew and midfielder Vurnon Anita insist the “real Newcastle United” is the second-half version.
Pardew will recall Mike Williamson and Yohan Cabaye to the team for the match in Cardiff, but he will also contemplate other changes after seeing too many of his senior men fail to get going for long periods on Merseyside. While there was an attempt to put a positive gloss on the second-half performance, there is also a sense of unease at the inconsistency within the group.
Back-to-back defeats have also left Newcastle in the bottom third of the table – with even players such as Anita admitting Cardiff is a “must-win” match.
He said: “The real Newcastle United is the team of the second half (at Everton), of course – not the first half.
“A couple of weeks ago we were doing very well and people were talking about us. Now we have lost two games but we must recover from this and show the real Newcastle.
“The table looks worrying now, I admit. It is a must-win game and I know that we will do much better.”
Questions about Pardew’s own future are bound to be asked again, with Joe Kinnear and Mike Ashley’s presence a reminder that the owner sought to make fundamental changes in the summer in response to the team’s slump at the back end of last year.
Anita feels that turning the questions on the manager is “unfair”, although he says Cardiff is now a “Champions League” game for United.
“It is not just about the manager, it is about the whole team.
“We all want to win here as well, the fans as well. I understand that and we must improve and put it on the pitch on Saturday.
“You cannot underestimate anyone in the Premier League so Cardiff will be tough.
“But that game is like a Champions League game for us it is so important. We must give it our all.
“To get rid of this inconsistency we will watch what we did wrong and improve on it on the training ground.
“Then we must put it out on the field on Saturday – that is the main thing for us now.”
The return of Cabaye does not necessarily mean the end of Anita’s foot-hold in the team, as evidenced by Pardew playing him alongside Cheick Tiote and the Holland midfielder.
On current form, it may be Moussa Sissoko – whose form has dipped over the last couple of games – who drops out.
The former Ajax man hopes that he has done enough to retain his own position in the team and believes that the second-half performance illustrated that there could be mileage in the Cabaye-Tiote-Anita axis.
“It went well in the second half but as I say we must look at the first half as well,” he said.
“That has to be good and we must keep on improving to go on.
“It is nice for me that I’m still in the team. I must keep on going and show myself.
“I am delighted to get minutes but I know that I cannot rest on what I have done. I must play well every week.”
Newcastle’s first-half performance was a major worry for Pardew, who cut an agitated figure after the game.
Anita admitted there had been “harsh words” at half-time at Goodison.
“In the first half we conceded poor goals, the second half was much better,” he said.
“The manager told us in the second half that we had to do better to prove something, which we did but it was not enough.
“Football is about two halves but we only played second half, which is not good.
“They were harsh words in the dressing room at half-time but they were the right things.
“You could see in the second half we did better so it was the right words for us.”