“Who could do a better job than Pardew under Ashley?”
This is a question often used to rebuke the idea that Pardew is failing miserably at his job, not even meeting the miserly targets he’s been set. Ashley’s role as evil overlord is one that has so far protected Pardew from the visceral and deserved criticism he should have been receiving. Poor ‘Pards’, the people lament, with his squad of international footballers and young exciting talent. This is by no means a defence of Ashley, his role at the club is largely detrimental and we would be ecstatic to see the back of him, but it is prudent to explore the idea that nobody could do a better job than Pardew, as we believe this to be a complete fallacy.
The role of “head coach” is one that is de rigeur in continental Europe, where transfers are often taken care of by a Director of Football while the “manager” is responsible for the first team. You could argue that this is precisely what is happening currently at Newcastle United albeit without the clearly defined roles. Graham Carr is essentially functioning as our DOF, while Alan Pardew “coaches” the team.
With this in mind, I feel that there are plenty of candidates working under arguably harsher financial constraints that would be able to produce far better football than the turgid mess we are currently being offered. One man in particular, is proving that budget is not equivalent, nor restrictive to style of play, is Paco Jemez. Rayo Vallecano currently sit 13th in La Liga, and under the stewardship of Jemez have implemented a philosophy and style of play that is winning many plaudits in high places.
Ray Vallecano’s squad market value is estimated at £43.47m (source: transfermarkt.co.uk). By way of contrast Newcastle United’s squad is valued at £111.10m and that is not counting the loan absentees Hatem Ben Arfa, Silvain Marveux and Mapou Yanga Mbiwa. In addition to this, Rayo’s starting budget is the lowest in La Liga. They started the 2013-14 season with a projected income of €19.9m and expenditure of €16.6M. Given the duopoly of the top two clubs on the TV revenue in Spain, it is even more impressive to consider what Jemez is getting out of the resources at his disposal. The stats indeed bear out that the football ‘Los Vallecanos’ are producing is of the standard of the top teams in Europe.
Rayo Vallecano had the 3rd best possession stats in Europe last season with an average of 58.13%. This was only bettered by Barcelona with 69.13% and Bayern Munich with 63.62%. Not bad company to be keeping. A quick look at Newcastle United’s recent possession stats shows they had 33% and 35% against Tottenham and Liverpool respectively. The points are of course the most vital statistic but this is in no way a sustainable long term strategy, relying on myriad of factors going our way in each games. Rayo also managed the second highest shots on goal in the division with 567, with Real Madrid leading the charts. They’ve achieved all this with the lowest budget in the league. Attacking football is not the only the right of preserve of cash rich clubs, and super powers. At elite level, footballers are more than capable of attractive football under the right guidance
Jemez has led Rayo to their highest ever league placing whilst still not straying from the attacking principles that inform his coaching philosophy. This is a world away from the consistently negative, ineffective and aesthetically repugnant dross served up by Pardew under the guise of financial constraints. We are told that his teams play “front foot football”, but there is statistically no evidence to support this claim. Indeed, it only takes a working set of eyes to see that our game plan is based on percentages.
While watching Newcastle on a consistent basis, you will quickly learn that we repeat the same ineffective set piece routine time and time again. Our style of play never seems to evolve and it is prudent to question just what is going on in our training sessions, why aren’t they varying? Again, this is down to Pardew. He is the one whose remit it is primarily to organise the team. Paco Jemez again shows him up in this respect by having 300 different training sessions in a year, keeping his team fresh and innovative.
It’s not just fans that are impressed with Jemez and his outfit. Barcelona’s Javier Mascherano was quick to compliment Jemez after the two sides met. Rayo were the first team in 136 games to have more possession than Barca. They finished the game with more shots on target and a higher pass completion rate. The difference in the sides came down to the huge gulf in financial clout, but Jemez proved that the style of play is not inimitable, it is not impossible to replicate or challenge.
It’s been reported that Pardew spends 4 out of 5 days working on our defence in an attempt to stifle the opposition. The fact that our defence is so porous suggests that whatever negative tactics he’s trying to implement, are not working. Newcastle often sit deep, unable to counter, with wingers tucking in as auxiliary fullbacks, and not pressing higher up the pitch. Contrast our archaic, out-dated way of setting up to that of Jemez’s ideas:
“We focus a lot on defence, but there are many ways to do that. You can defend in your box or in the middle of the pitch, which carries some risks. When back in the time we sat down to talk about what we wanted to do with Rayo, we thought that if we shat our pants we would have no chance. If we sat deep, waiting for a corner or a set piece, we would have gone straight to Second Division. That’s what I think. The gap [between them and the opposition] would’ve been really big. But we decided to go and put up a fight against everybody, and punch so hard that the rival couldn’t get back up.”
A coach should always be evolving with the team, something that is patently not the case with Pardew. Either his own arrogance, or his own shortcomings see him repeating the same mistakes over and over. Unwilling to change and unwilling to innovate. I’d be hard pressed to find many enjoyable Newcastle United performances over the last 2 years. Again it is worthwhile to look at what Jemez himself has to say on the matter:
“It works like that, such is life. The development of a manager and of any other worker begins with an idea, then you evolve but you have to stay loyal to that idea. I don’t want to see my team sitting deep. I have a bad time when that happens. As a manager I want to see my team enjoying themselves, I already suffer enough in the touchline without seeing us not playing the ball. I like to see people having a good time. Playing badly, win with a penalty, I don’t want that. I don’t want to win at any price. It’s true that it’s a risky way of seeing things.”
In a game so starved of ingenuity and of astronomical cost to the average fan, surely the least you can expect from watching your team is to be entertained? Pardew’s MO is to save his own job, often to the detriment of the team and the fans. As demonstrated in this article the ‘football’ that Pardew churns out, is certainly not the best he can do under the conditions. In fact he is failing badly on better resources than a whole host of other managers. This is the greatest myth propagated to deflect criticism. The myth he falls back on to protect him, he sets the bar so catastrophically low that anything above it is deemed as a success. Just imagine what a manager like Paco Jemez could achieve with a better squad, like ours.
There are attainable, better managers. There are managers who would work under Ashley, who would hugely improve upon the abominable job that Pardew is doing. The idea that nobody would take the Newcastle job us utter nonsense. This is a club with a huge stadium, huge fan base and a squad of very talented young footballers.
There is a certain beauty in the way coaches like Jemez approach the game, and the man himself provides the perfect quote to end this piece:
“At times of crisis, people spend money to see us play: we’ve got a responsibility to play nice football, otherwise what the hell are they spending their money for?”