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.