Guest Blog: Wigan Victory Makes a Mockery of This Season’s Excuses…

Posted on December 5th, 2012 | 22 Comments |

Demba Ba and Vurnon Anita v Wigan.
Demba Ba and Vurnon Anita v Wigan.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a guest blog this time! Many thanks to “ToonBano” from the Toon blog for his thoughts – wt.

What a relief.

NUFC have stopped the rot of 4 straight defeats, got a clean sheet and scored three well worked goals in the 3-0 victory over Wigan. What is even more of a relief is the system and the strategy used for the Monday night win. The 4-3-3 has been begged and pleaded to come out of retirement by myself and others this season because it is the system that suits our players the best. Against Wigan we finally used it properly, passing the ball to each other and created space with movement and fluidity, as the players were completely comfortable playing in positions that suited them as well as the team overall. Hallelujah!

We were far from perfect but it was a damn sight better than kicking the ball long, bypassing midfield altogether into the two strikers. This way of playing is rigid, lazy and has no place with the type of players we have. I never want to see us play like that ever again. Hopefully the penny has finally dropped with Alan Pardew but we will only know over the next month. It wouldn’t surprise me if he decided to go back to hoofball. He’s done it before.

Average positions.
Cisse & Jonas offer width, Marveaux No.22 supporting from deep, attacking full backs & 2 solid CM

Our task was also made a hell of a lot easier with Wigan going down to 10 men very early on in the game, so we can’t really judge properly if this game will turn around our season. But a 3-0 win is a 3-0 win and nobody is complaining. What last night did was also remind me why I have gone completely cold to Alan Pardew and find it very difficult to warm to him again. At half time when we were 2-0 up at home against 10 men of Wigan’s quality, he sent the team out in a very Pardew like fashion of ‘let’s hold onto what we’ve got’. I despise this negative attitude and mentality. It drives me up the wall. Wigan couldn’t have been more there for the taking but we stood off them and laboured our way to the final whistle.

John Carver and Alan Pardew. Wigan ended the game with 50% possession. How can this be? They had 10 men for 78 minutes in our stadium. Incredible really. Ever since AP has got his hands on this team he has introduced this negative way of thinking. It’s infectious. It doesn’t do us any favours whatsoever. We did it countless times last season and got away with it. The Wolves 2-2 draw was the best example to use as to when it doesn’t come off. How we failed to win that game against the worst team in the league being 2-0 up beggars belief. How Wigan arguably outplayed us on Monday night is a similarly mystifying. An explanation would be in the second half we worryingly looked like we had reverted back to 4-4-2 as Jonas did his deep lying winger routine and Bigirimana seemed to be on he right wing. If being outplayed with 10 men doesn’t prove 4-4-2 is diabolical, I don’t know what will?

However, I am not going to lay into the team or Pardew too much as I can fully understand us not wanting to over exert ourselves given our injury problems and mass of games at the minute. Santon and Demba Ba hobbling off with muscle strains proved it. Hopefully both players will be back for the trip to Fulham next Monday as well as Ben Arfa and Obertan recovering from their injuries. Given Fulham’s lack of form at the minute if could be a great chance for us to win and create a gap from the relegation zone with Man City, Man Utd away and Arsenal away to come before the end of 2012.

Before the Fulham game we have a trip to Bordeaux to contend with which will no doubt be contested by our second string of players. The Ameobi’s, Amalfitano’s and Tavernier’s of our world, which I am actually looking forward to watching to see how they get on. It’s in my opinion that our squad in terms of depth and quality is vastly underrated and under appreciated by not just our fans but bizarrely and infuriatingly by our manager. We have one of the best squads I can ever remember us having in my time and the fact we have qualified from the Euro group undefeated shows it, given the players that have actually contested that tournament. The win against Wigan also completely exposed and made a mockery of Pardews excuse of ‘injuries’ being the reason we are in 14th place in the league.

Sylvain Marveaux.
Marveaux - Impressive.
Our 3 most impressive performers Monday night were Sylvain Marveaux, Vurnon Anita and Gael Bigirimana. All of which were replacements for 3 key players in our first team. Marv for Ben Arfa, Anita for Cabaye and Bigi for Tiote at half time. Their performances proved without any shadow of a doubt how good our squad is. We can replace world class quality with Premier League class quality. How many teams can say that? Not many. I have been pulling my hair out this year having to listen to the excuses spewed out constantly about why we are failing. They are all complete tripe. All the injuries and Europa league trips explain is why we are not challenging the Top 4. They do not explain why we are hovering above the bottom 4. There’s a big difference that seems completely lost on the sheep that follow every word Pardew says.

The squad we have should not be in the bottom half of the league unless we have an outbreak of a virus that wipes out the entire first XI. Not just 2 or 3 injuries at a time. Like Anita, Marveaux, Bigirimana, Ferguson, Williamson, Perch and the Ameobi’s have showed is that when they are called upon they are good enough to play for our first team. They even have qualified our football club for the knock out rounds in Europe and have now prevented us from suffering 5 defeats in a row by putting aside Wigan comfortably. How much more proof do you need?

We have quality back up players in our squad. You could argue a Marveaux is better than Jonas. A Ferguson would be a better option than a Simpson. The 3-0 victory with three key players out injured has made a mockery of Pardews excuses and exposed the glaring truth that insisting on 4-4-2 hoofball has been the biggest problem to our season. It has been his own incompetence and nothing else. If he is any kind of a decent manager he will stick with this 4-3-3 formation no matter who is fit, no matter who is injured, no matter who the opposition, no matter what day of the week it is and cut the excuses out. System first > team selection second.

Gael Bigirimana's first goal in black and white.
Bigi's first goal in black and white.
If we are to turn this dire league season around then we have to give the players we have available the best chance of doing it. Insisting on them lumping it with no width or link up play is for school kids and Stoke. In the 3-0 win we only played 51 long balls compared to the season average of 76 (which is shockingly the highest in the league by any team), this shows how much better we are as a team when we look to pass it. Our three goals were brilliantly worked with first time passing, clever movement and driving at the oppositions goal. Cisse coming off the right to link up with Demba forced the penalty and changed the game. Our third goal came from perfect counter attack play, with clever off the ball runs and picking out the right pass. Then walloped in the top corner by 18 year old Bigi. He’ll remember that one forever.

Our team last night were settled. They were comfortable. They won, easily. The team we have watched all season have been far from any of these characteristics and have failed to win more often then not. The penny of ditching the senseless pre-historic nonsense of 4-4-2 kick it long has to have dropped once and for all. It doesn’t take a genius to work out how and why we won Monday night. It would take a moron to change it.

In Pardew We Trust?


NUFCBlog Author: ToonBano Author of ToonBano Blog @ Also write and contribute to The Mag,, and here! ToonBano has written 6 articles on this blog.

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22 Responses

  1. Nice post, toonbano. I’m sure worky appreciates being spelled.

    A lot of what you say is right: the formation stuff and AP’s negativity especially. I disagree about the squad. It’s like a lumpy spliff: weak at the back, stacked in the middle, weak at the front. Going to 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 helps with the deficiency up top but the defense is, right now, inadequate. Our second string defense consists of Williamson and Perch (who also covers at CM). That’s not enough. When we have injuries, like now, there’s literally no cover at all. Colo & Willo could have put on sideshows like they did early in the match all night and both would still be starting next weekend.

    AP’s injury whining is indeed an excuse. We’ve often played poorly even with the entire squad this season.

    Definitely waiting to see if AP’s learned his lesson…

  2. Preaching to the (mainly) converted on this site TB, its the other blogs you need to spread the word around !

    Remember the first Bordeaux game ? We started 4-3-3 and were a goal up within 16 minutes yet he reverted to a front two before half time because he was worried they were getting at us !!!!

    Last season’s Wigan match, when he changed formation on three occasions before half time and still got spanked by Martinez is partly the reason why he’ll never give up on 4-4-2. It’s a system he knows and understands, he knows where players “fit” whereas he doesnt really know which players work best in these modern trendy formations.

    However it’s his inability to turn a game around especially after going a goal down which has become the albatross around his neck !!!!

  3. another great post worky I don’t see us getting anywhere above 10th this year and a bad transfer window coming up as a fan of 21 years I am kinda used to the dissapointment we have been in decline since 03 it is not even enjoyable to watch us hoof it every 6 passes but hey we can dream of good things but it’s a long time away

  4. danny b says:
    December 6, 2012 at 12:42 am

    “another great post worky”

    Thanks dannyb but this one’s by guest blogger, “ToonBano.”

    Great to see you back on here BTW AndyMac!

  5. They do say that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing and so it is with this 4-4-2 vs 4-3-3 thing. It’s more complicated than some fans seem to think.

    I tend to prefer more “triangular” formations but to use one example, did Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal play a “route one” game when they were 4-4-2? What about Manchester United? Alex Ferguson still uses it if the circumstances dictate and there are many other examples. Wenger has even flirted with the idea reintroducing it to accomodate Podolski and Giroud in the Arsenal side. Hence this ‘4-3-3 good, 4-4-2 bad’ seems a gross oversimplification, as is the notion that it could never suit players from south of Calais. On the other side, we have played 4-3-3 and been shite sometimes too so it’s about a much wider group of factors, otherwise coaching would be easy.

    Apart from Pardew being a route one hack, perhaps one area we have a problem is on the flanks with most of the usual players playing on their wrong foot which can result in them cutting in rather than crossing? I’ve previously been an advocate of Benny playing on the “wrong” side but if we must play in Pardew’s version of the 4-4-2 again, perhaps he and Gutierrez could swap places for a while?

  6. Worky
    Yes we know it’s complicated and that lineups are not neccessarily what people label them.
    I think this may be true of the much maligned 4-4-2, which may be used by some as an euphenism for the route one game.
    Plus our ass to the door defending, when ahead and beginning the second half is not exactly a catenaccio.
    Simply a dont let them score game.
    I would not mind, when defending, if we took the opportunities to hit them on the break, which is sound in a tactical sense, but to just hoof it up the pitch is woeful.
    And there are variations, like a 4-2-3-1, which we sometimes play, a 4-1-4-1, where diamonds are used.
    There are any number of variations, that can be used.
    Depends on who you are up against.
    Certainly Arsenal and Stoke present different problems, in which case one would chang either the lineup or tactics, probably both.
    It takes a degree of sophistication from both the manager and coaches, in ordere to have sides trained in these tactical moves and appears it may not exactly have reached this side.
    Cause i have yet to see Pardew change tactics any time other than at half time, which indicates he hasn’t got that far yet.
    But Martinez immediately changed both to a defensive midfielder and his sides tactics, following the sending off.
    He probably then figured Pardew would introduce a defesive game in the second half and told them to have a go, which the did, even bottled us up for a good while with only ten men..
    I mean face it Pardew is no genius and limited in a tactical sense, would prefer we had Martinez instead.

  7. While I, too, agree that Pardew seems unreasonably slow on understanding the formation issue, I do think you over do it all a bit. The real winner of games is goals, and a quick look at the table will show you that NUFC just haven’t been putting enough of these priceless little treasures away. Our lack of goal scoring is costing us games, and that comes about from a lack of quality goal scorers and creative midfielders.
    Ba is proving he is very good, but he lack consistency (at least for 80,000pw), while Cisse needs competition to spur him back to his best or replace him if he can’t do it. It seems our youngsters are not ready, while Shameobi is too inconsistent to provide the top-shelf competition required. We need at least one quality striker (probably two if Sameobi doesn’t come on) who can provide competition or be a genuine replacement for Ba/Cisse.
    Ben Arfa is creative, but a soloist and doesn’t score enough, while Cabaye is good, but only occasionally is he really creative. We really need creativity in the attacking middle of the park – more than any other position. Who is available (quite a few really), that Ashley is prepared to afford (oops, no-one, damn !!!).
    A quality striker in the price range of 10-15M and a creative midfielder in the range of 12-20M and you can suddenly see Pardew’s dilemma – make do with the middling bunch you have – without injuries, finish 5th, with injuries and disruptions, struggle to maintain mid-table. Cross you fingers Carr can find us a quality creative midfielder flying under everyone else’s radar.

  8. I would drop gutierrez me like been getting fed up of him for a wwhile now. Shys away from a challenge, spends more ttime on the deck pulling his socks up, never goes past a man, cant trap a ball at all abd his passing is shite. Brings nout to the table at all for me. Cisse needs a goal. If it wasnt for last season.we would be calling him worse than.shite now

  9. Sort of agree its mostly the players, they (especially Willo, Taylor, Jonas and Simmo) lump it up to the front two at the first opportunity regardless of formation – we played more of a passing game on Monday with Anita and Marvs getting plenty of the ball and making intelligent passes – marvs played only 9% of his 60 odd passes long and had an 86% pass success rate
    Lumping it long means we invariably lose possession allowing opponents to build up attack after attack

  10. good post, but what was highlighted, is the fact, it’s doubtful we’ve turned a corner.
    i think pardew presiding over a 3-0 wigan win, will be a blip on an otherwise downward trajectory.

    as for tonights game, pardew is saying publicy, that he doesn’t was to let the travelling fans down, in private though, it’s job done.
    i expect all the kids will get a run out, i think it will be more about how much bordeux, want to win tonight.

  11. PETER
    Where have you been ?
    A creative midfielder for around 12 to 15 million? are we talking pounds here?
    And a quality striker for another 10 to 15 million?
    Dream on!

  12. Mindshaft,
    Soh ! it’s not Pardew, it’s people like Jonas, Taylor, Williamson and Simpson, regular bunch of hoofers , are they ?
    If that’s the case how come they didn’t use the hoof it up tactic against Wigan, as three out of the four were on the field.
    Sure it’s nice to make intelligent passes, but it’s also true it’s easier to acomplish a short pass than a long one, ergo the 86% success rate for Marveaux.
    Tiote also has a great success rate, but has limited vision, tends to get rid of it as soon as possible.
    Seldom looks for the right pass, whether long or short.
    Does that increase his value to the side.
    Statistics can be used to both prove and diprove the same point.

  13. The media are heating up the possible trade stuff.
    We have been linked with players from Brasil to Algeria, most one can dismiss as paper talk, (hell they gotta make a living too, the sports hacks)
    The big question is Ba ?
    Will he stay or will he go ?
    Our joint top EPL scorer!
    Ed. had a chat with Ollie Bernard and Ollie figures he’s too settled to move, phew ! had me worried for a while, but now i know he loves it here in the Athens of the north and is settled.
    Hell, thats’s me re-assured!
    Course ollie added he could go in the summer.
    It appears from what we read, Demba is asking for around eighty or ninety grand a week.
    How much is RVP on, or Suarez, never mind people like Torres and the Man. Citehs strikers ?
    The same with Simpson, easily the most improved and solid defender we have had in a long time.
    Give these guys a contract FFS.
    Well that is if there’s any ambition other than a mid table position in the EPL, which looks more and more like the overall plan.
    Well guess it aint my money .

  14. toontony says:
    December 6, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    “worky, will there be a match banter for the Bordeaux game later?”

    I’m just about to knock one out Tony.

  15. workyticket says:

    I’m just about to knock one out Tony.

    Well that’s your business worky but what about the banter? :-)