10 Moves Newcastle United Need to Make to Be Successful in 2014-15
And those tendencies were as noticeable as ever during the 2013-14 campaign, where a promising start was replaced by a string of heavy defeats, goal droughts and serious supporter unrest.
Despite mass calls for his head from the terraces, manager Alan Pardew has been backed by his board this summer, and after such a challenging season, the rebuilding job at St. James’ Park is underway.
As the Magpies look to improve on a desperately poor year so far, Bleacher Report looks at 10 moves the Toon need to make to be successful in 2014-15.
Bring in a Minimum of Two New Strikers
At the time of writing, Geordie teenagers Adam Campbell and Adam Armstrong, plus untried Spaniard Ayoze Perez, are the only fit strikers available to Newcastle United.
As such, the need for reinforcements in the goalscoring department is as great as it’s ever been at St. James’ Park.
With Papiss Cisse out indefinitely with a knee injury, Alan Pardew’s options in attack are sorely limited, and a minimum of two new faces is an absolute must.
Pardew does have the option of playing Yoan Gouffran in a more central role, but such a makeshift manoeuvre is hardly the ideal way to begin a new campaign.
Get Rid of the Dead Wood
In a squad devoid of quality during the second-half of last season, a number of players have uncertain futures at Newcastle United, and Alan Pardew needs to move them on.
Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa has already been touted around various clubs in his native France, as reported by the Evening Chronicle’s Lee Ryder, with Marseille, Lille, Racing Club Lens and Bordeaux all showing an interest.
Elsewhere, Gabriel Obertan and Sylvain Marveaux found themselves out in the cold last term, while Jonas Gutierrez, Sammy Ameobi and Gael Bigirimana made little to no impact.
A cull has already seen the likes of Shola Ameobi, Dan Gosling and James Tavernier leave Tyneside, and a few more might need to find themselves new employers before the new campaign starts.
Use Siem De Jong as a Playmaker
Back in 1997, Newcastle United beat off a host of clubs to land Jon Dahl Tomasson from SC Heerenveen—an attacking midfielder who’d found goals easy to come by in Holland.
At his most recent club, however, a familiar lack of options up front meant the Danish international was played as an out-and-out striker, and resultant struggles saw him leave just 12 months later.
Fast-forward to today, and Toon fans are hoping history does not repeat itself with inventive playmaker Siem De Jong, who recently arrived from Dutch champions Ajax.
From a traditional supporting role, the 25-year-old has reached double figures in the Eredivisie four times in the last five seasons, and he must be given the same chance to shine in the Premier League.
Re-Establish the Bond Between Manager and Supporters
For the first time during his reign as Newcastle United manager, Alan Pardew suffered serious condemnation from the terraces last season, with calls for his sacking a regular feature.
This time around, the 52-year-old must act quickly to quell similar unrest once the new campaign gets underway.
How he fares in the transfer market over the next eight weeks will go a long way to deciding his fate, as will the way the players respond to similarly fierce criticism.
The majority of fans undoubtedly lost faith in Pardew last term, and the bond that existed between the dugout and the stands just two short years ago must be re-established as quickly as possible once the action begins.
Play Moussa Sissoko Through the Middle
Things went rather well for Moussa Sissoko at the World Cup, and his success in a France shirt can only be a good thing for Newcastle United.
Buoyed by a goal in the group-stage demolition of Switzerland, the 24-year-old brought security and solidity to Didier Deschamps’ midfield, playing with poise and power.
A similar role at St. James’ Park could be just what the Magpies need next season, allowing Siem De Jong the freedom to roam behind a central striker while adding his own attacking slant.
No one created more Toon goals than Sissoko last term, but he could be put to even greater use in a box-to-box capacity than his right-sided berth allowed during 2013-14.
Make a Clear-Cut Decision on Hatem Ben Arfa
A liability in some people’s eyes, a misunderstood genius according to others, Hatem Ben Arfa has reached a definable crossroads in his career, and everything hinges on next season.
Restricted to the substitutes bench for long spells last term, the Frenchman cut a frustrated figure and became isolated by boss Alan Pardew while retaining adoration from sections of the supporters.
Ben Arfa’s exclusion was seen by some as proof of the manager’s inability to get the best out of his players, while many questioned his attitude as well as his physical fitness.
What is not up for debate is the 27-year-old’s ability, and Pardew must decide whether to accommodate the player—warts and all—or cut his losses and move the former Marseille man on.
Find a Role for Papiss Cisse—or Move Him on
Papiss Cisse was not alone in having a difficult campaign last time out, but as history tells us, there is no hiding place in Newcastle United’s famed No. 9 shirt.
The Senegalese striker found the net just four times in all competitions, and was dragged out of position by an increasingly desperate Alan Pardew as the season wore on.
The forward who burst onto the Premier League scene in January 2012 was nowhere to be seen, and more often than not, the 29-year-old's form left supporters exasperated.
Currently out of action with a knee injury, Cisse is at a similar juncture to Hatem Ben Arfa, and the manager must find a way to house him in his starting XI or grant him leave to start a new chapter.
Make the Most of Their Opening Fixtures
Much like last season, as well as the 2011-12 campaign which saw them finish fifth, a strong start will be imperative for Newcastle United. And on paper at least, the fixture list has been kind.
The Magpies will only face three of last term’s top six in their first 14 Premier League games, with champions Manchester City due on Tyneside on the opening day.
How Alan Pardew’s men emerge from such a favourable start will make or break their season and go a long way to influencing the manager’s short-term job security.
Bolster the Defence
If reports are to believed, Newcastle United could be forced into a reshuffle at the back next term thanks to the imminent departure of French right-back Mathieu Debuchy.
One potential replacement is Manchester City’s Micah Richards, as reported by the Sunderland Echo, but another defensive all-rounder wouldn’t go amiss to challenge the likes of Mike Williamson and Davide Santon.
The Toon’s back line was much-maligned during the last campaign, and one or two new faces in that department could be just what the doctor ordered at St. James’ Park.
Cancel out the Hammerings
Not that Newcastle United fans need reminding, but their team conceded three or more goals 11 times last season, and were on the end of some horrendous hammerings.
In the second-half of the campaign, defeats by three or four clear goals became the norm for the Magpies, and such collapses must be eradicated in 2014-15.
Often left exposed at the back, the Toon must discover a mean streak both at home and away, and cancel out the kind of breakdowns that left their followers furious.
A fresh approach in central midfield would help, but Alan Pardew will be hoping Fabricio Coloccini and Mike Williamson come back reinvigorated and ready to put last term behind them.