ALAN Pardew admits Newcastle United are enduring their “rough patch” of the season.
There is no reason to suspect it is anything other than a temporary one.
For while United’s defeat at Norwich on Saturday was a bruising lesson in what happens when depleted resources meet strong-arm opponents feasting on momentum, it was not indicative of deeper problems for Pardew.
Newcastle’s players and coaching staff were on a day off yesterday, the squad that has taken them to a very creditable seventh in the Premier League having set off to Glasgow for the annual Christmas party.
No doubt hangovers were involved yesterday, but no stone will be left unturned in coming up with a Plan B after their Plan A was assailed by injury and suspension.
Pardew could change formation for the visit of Swansea, perhaps even trialling the 4-3-3 formation that was originally envisaged for the club when they were chasing Saint-Etienne’s midfield enforcer Blaise Matuidi.
Then the thinking was to put Cheick Tioté in the centre of midfield while Matuidi would go on the right with Yohan Cabaye possible on the left of a midfield three.
Matuidi was priced out of a Newcastle move, but United still have the resources – Mehdi Abeid could slip into the engine room, while Jonás Gutiérrez is either bumped back into defence or given a more attacking role.
That would also allow Hatem Ben Arfa, brooding at the loss of his place in the team, back into the fray.
Swansea are a difficult side to break down – hence the consideration of 4-3-3 – but they are not quite as smart going forward, and they will not pose the same physical problems that so unsettled the makeshift team on Saturday.
If this is an injury crisis, it is good for United that they have a coaching staff so far proven to prosper in a crisis.
John Carver told The Journal last month that the club’s managerial brains trust spend more time with fringe players than they do with those playing in the team and that kind of attention to detail should pay off in the three weeks that remain before reinforcements can be added in January.
James Perch should find things easier alongside Fabricio Coloccini, while the club will hope Davide Santon improves from a difficult afternoon at Carrow Road.
Privately, they do not believe the Italian Under-21 international will begin to show his best until he has six months’ experience of English football’s top flight under his belt – but needs must.
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