If we are to believe the words of an enraged Alan Pardew, his Newcastle’s 4-0 opening drubbling at the hands of Manchester City was largely because of the apparently-enforced absence of midfielder Yohan Cabaye.
Of course, if you have watched either the Toon or the 2012 Premier League winners over the last 12 months, you’ll be aware just how exaggerated this particular display of damage control is.
Some would go as far as to accuse Mr. Pardew of talking completely out of his backside about the Cabaye situation’s impact on their on-pitch performance.
I will take a more diplomatic approach to my derision, however, and merely point out that such blame games are the sort of thing you more commonly hear between two overly-defensive fans of rival sides bickering in the local kebab shop after a night on the sauce.
Ironic, really, given Newcastle director of football Joe Kinnear’s hilarious attempt to pronounce the name of the France international.
And that, in a way, is where the problem really lies for Newcastle.
Kinnear’s appointment, its many head-scratching tendencies and the eyebrow-raising quotes from the man himself since he started the job have been well documented by the media already. In fact, we’re all just grateful he hasn’t rung us all up personally since then, to call us a c***.
Pardew’s appointment in itself has felt like a time bomb since he was inexplicably tied down to a cushty deal with the Premier League side having failed to make a splash in LEAGUE ONE in his last job. This is partly due to his unrivalled ability to make a significant early impact, only to watch things fall apart around him post-honeymoon period.
His excellent 2011-12 with the Geordies appeared to be proof positive that another storm was coming, just like it had at West Ham and Charlton. Last season wasn’t quite that bad, but only by the slightest of margins at times.
And then of course there’s Mike Ashley calling the shots – including hiring both Kinnear and Pardew. I’ll let any long-suffering Newcastle fans fill in the contextual blanks of his effect on the club in the comments section.
Yes, they’ve pieced together a pretty good squad despite all this. Some of the signings have been downright inspired. And yet, one cannot help but feel the club are never more than a heartbeat away from another disaster of 2008/09 proportions.
Newcastle United as a footballing side appear as sturdy and reliable as a pitta bread that has had too much chili sauce poured into it. No matter how good a few bites might taste, it’s only a matter of time before the bottom falls out.
Manchester City, with millions of pounds of top-line investment, are capable of sticking four past anyone on their day. They hit six at Old Trafford, for crying out loud. But Newcastle’s performance at the Etihad was alarmingly-meek, beyond just the quality of the opposition, or having one good player unsettled by a horribly-timed bid.
Newcastle were the best value for money in the Premier League relegation odds this summer. Those odds have since shortened, and yet outside of the odds-on ‘promoted three’, they remain the best team for a cheeky flutter in the drop race.
Though they proved last year that they are certainly capable of keeping their heads above water when things are looking dire, it’ll take a fantastic run of games to convince anyone that they’re not dressed-up cannon fodder.
If Cabaye does head off to Arsenal – or, given Arsene Wenger’s modern-day job as a mere ‘fluffer’ for other clubs to sign players he likes, to PSG or Monaco – you have to wonder how long it will take Pardew to blame the team’s entire shortcomings this season on the move.
But then, don’t we all just blame the kebabs for putting on those extra unsightly pounds, rather than ourselves for actually choosing to eat them?
Liam Happe | Follow on Twitter