Onus on Ben Arfa and Tiote to guide Newcastle clear of relegation
Alan Pardew would not have thought that in the season that he was rewarded with a previously unthought-of eight-year contract, that he would be entrenched in a relegation battle.
However, odds of 12/1 on Newcastle dropping out of the Premier League for the second time in five seasons look increasingly tempting given the club’s recent slump in form.
Newcastle have lost five of their last six games and without being disrespectful to the opposition, they would have felt they could have taken a couple of points from these defeats, especially victories from the home meetings with West Ham and Swansea.
In fact, the poorness of their latest results mean that after 16 games of the season they are only one point better off than at this stage when they were last relegated.
Although the lack of goals from Papiss Cisse is a major problem and a possible excuse for the Toon sitting just four points above the bottom three, Demba Ba’s ten goals does go some way in compensating for this.
Instead, it is in midfield where large differences are noticeable in comparison.
The absence of Yohan Cabaye has been felt in the last month and he is not due back until February because of a groin injury.
Without Cabaye, Newcastle struggle for central creativity, with Cheick Tiote and Jonas Gutierrez not having the same killer pass to unlock defences.
Tiote was an instant hit when signing from Newcastle, effectively a wall in front of the back four and solid at retaining possession.
He has not hit the same heights in either regard this season, while Gutierrez has done little barring covering lots of turf.
Pardew’s perseverance in attempting to play two strikers through the middle has also had a negative impact.
Ba and Cisse are almost identical strikers who make similar runs and therefore they struggle to form any sort of partnership.
Meanwhile, four in midfield naturally causes Hatem Ben Arfa to start from deeper on the right and he is far more dangerous when beginning higher up the pitch on the right of a front three, where he is able to drift inside to cause problems.
Instead of relegation, if Newcastle return to a single striker and allow Ben Arfa to influence play from a more advanced position, 11/5 may prove a shrewd bet that they end up finishing in the top half of the Premier League.
If not, relegation could become a serious possibility.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.