Defence of the Helm

Approaching the end for Hatem?
As kids there was an unwritten rule in the house that the first person into the kitchen in the morning got to choose the radio station. If it was us it was Radio One. Them (the parents) – Radio Two.

If ever there was an incentive to get your arse out of bed in the morning as a teenager it was the threat of having to listen to Jimmy Young for an hour before you went to school.

We swore back then that we would never grow out of Radio One. That our trendy modern tastes would never change.

Now I look forward to Wogan.

It’s now more than a few years since I left the North East and headed off to warmer climes. I am not up to speed with the latest developments in Albert Square and wouldn’t recognize a single song in the top 20. I have become used to other things. Different music. Different TV shows and definitely different weather.

There’s a hotel in Manama, Bahrain called the Golden Tulip. Every weekend they do a spectacular lunch.

For the price of a Sunday Roast and a couple of pints you get to feast like a king on everything from Lobsters to T-Bones with unlimited alcohol from midday through to five pm.

Many’s the time we have staggered down their steps into the car park, barely capable of coherent speech, and oddly enough, not once have I felt the need to spray paint “St James’ Park ” on any of the hotel walls, but that’s a topic for a different rant.

The down side of the Golden Tulip buffet is the Karaoke. Every week the room is serenaded by the same group of would-be Robbie Williams’s or (god forbid) Celine Dions .

If that’s not bad enough, they actually think they are good enough to do encores, and even requests, despite the odd football style chant reverberating around the room.

Wobbly John used to treat us to his seriously bad Elvis impersonation – every bloody weekend!

“We’re caught in a trap” was always followed by the whole room shouting back “yer singin’s crap!” but on he went, undaunted.

Very rarely do you see such dogged determination to stick with something that obviously doesn’t work, but up there with Wobbly John’s Elvis, and possibly Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, I would have to include the Toon’s almost suicidal tendency of a couple of seasons ago to change tactics when in front and try to defend a lead.

I use the word “defend” very loosely.

Fortunately it’s not so commonplace these days – but it still lurks, raising its ugly head now and again just to remind us how bad our defence can actually be.

Over the years I’ve always been puzzled as to why, when you are kicking serious arse, a couple of goals up and hogging possession, you would suddenly want to go on the defensive.

We just didn’t know how to defend a lead.

And a bit like the wife’s driving, we also don’t go backwards well.

I appreciate that our “goals against” was canny for a while there but the opposition have finally rumbled us.

Now they just sit back and wait. Once we get our hordes up near the half way line and give the ball away, which we do quite often, they just charge forward as fast as they can knowing full well that we don’t “do” backwards.

It reminds me of the old joke about losing 5–0 to five break-away goals, all against the run of play, but a hatful of breakaway goals from Fulham and Spurs weren’t particularly funny, were they?

There was also a certain inevitability about Wolves. A certain “Here we go again”.

I’ve finally taken to Coloccini. I’ve managed to get past the hair and the fact that he is “Fab”. He reads the game well, puts himself around a bit and does well with the heed most of the time.

I have however, gone off Williamson. I find myself cringing every time he tries dancing with the stars in the box. Maybe if he’d been loved just a little more as a boy, he’d feel less inclined to try to hug everyone so much. You just know that there’s a penalty in there somewhere, or even worse, a sending off.

I never thought I’d say it but I’m actually missing Steven Taylor.

While Guthrie impressed (well – most of the time at least) we have definitely also missed Tiote. He has a presence, breaks things up, adds an extra line of defence, and of course there’s always the expectation (or even hope) that one of the opposition might emerge from a tackle minus a limb. Or two.

I realize that it’s very easy to sit here after a couple of bad results and tear our defence to bits, but the truth of it is that there is never a good time to criticize them.

It appears that Ryan Taylor and Jonas are first choice midfielders because they get back and “help out” Simpson and Santon at the back, suggesting that Simpson and Santon are not as solid as they could be.

I’m sure we’ll see a vast improvement against the Mackems, and hopefully give them another drubbing. Tiote and Cabaye will be a game further into settling back in while hopefully Ba and Cisse will be a bit sharper, assuming the latter is over his mysterious groin problem that had him suddenly pull out of the Senegal friendly.

I suppose that’s always going to be the risk when you pull out suddenly.

We’ve been talking a lot lately about getting the likes of Coloccini, Simpson Ba and Guthrie tied up to long term contracts, but at the moment I would suggest that Ben Arfa is the one we should be worried about.

Having learnt his negotiating skills from Carlos Tevez, unless Benny gets more pitch time I’m sure it won’t be long before he “speets ze dummay” and maneuvers for a move. OK, we’ll still be in line with Ashley’s business model, making a couple of million profit and then go out and buy another French 12 year old, but wouldn’t it be a huge waste?

So what are the options? A bit more strength at the back so Benny can roam up front do his stuff?

Or try to encourage him to track back more, like Jonas and Taylor?

If there’s one thing we should have learned by now it has to be that you don’t buy a player for his qualities, try to change him and then wonder why he’s not performing.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him on his way at the end of the season, followed by Guthrie. Two players who I don’t think will be happy to sit on the bench, who are good enough to do something about it.

No doubt, with us playing the mackems at the weekend we’ll see Ameobi at some point during the game, maybe even on from the start in place of Cisse’s groin, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he knocks one in off either his arse ,or his shin, or the back of his head to win the game. A win is a win. But could this it be a no-win situation for our little Frenchman?

The beginning of the end? I hope not.

33 thoughts on “Defence of the Helm

  1. That situation with Hatem also bothers the hell out of me Archie. Pardew seems to think we need a seriously good ball playing attacker to help Simpson out. Would it not be easier to get Simpson to defend properly?
    Hatem was ready for the first team in November and would have got better and better instead of losing his confidence and going backwards. It’s poor management. Harvey, SBR, Keegan would have had an arm around him and just told him to go out and play his natural game. He’s lost the joy of that!


  2. When are people going to wake up collo and williams,you cant play a high attacking line with them 2,all you got to do is loop the ball into space behind them,me 2 year old granddaughter can beat them 2 for pace and get a shot at krul,taylor well all i will say is i wish i could find a job like his for about 30 k a week,3 seasons now doged with injures,spends most of the season with his feet up,wake up, cash in, and lets get 4 pacey, strong centrebacks


  3. Agree Archie, could well be the beginning of the end. Sad to see. Fundamental difference in playing philosophy between player and manager, and you won’t change either.

    Would at least like to see Pardew give him a run of games until the end of the season, start him and give him at least 70mins, give him the opportunity to prove him wrong and show his defensive shortfalls are a worthwhile risk to have his attacking threat.

    If he performs, he proves his worth, but if he doesn’t then Pardew gets proved right and maybe he just won’t fit our system. Don’t see the point in giving the lad 10 to 20 mins every few games, doesn’t have a fighting chance to have consistent form or prove anything.


  4. Very entertaining read Archie. It’s radio 5live in my house and the kids have no choice ,more so on a weekend .They know full well not to mess with mum’s footie coverage on pain of death 😆
    Regarding Benny, defensive frailities aside he’s a very good player and NOT a defender at the end of the day ,therefor we should use him as he should be. If only our defence was stronger we could be so much more adventurous with our formations .I would like to see Ba,Cisse and Benny in a three man attack, by christ that would /should scare the life out of any defence.


  5. Great to have you back Archie. Missed your alternative assessments. Great read. Busy now, may comment later.


  6. Sad but it looks like it will end in tears with Hatem, There has been a gaping hole on the right since Barton fecked off and he should have been given a sustained run in the side to get his form back after the injury, Its not like the alternatives have pulled up trees, Obertan has played there for the majority of the season and is easily as frustrating and nowhere near as talented, Raylor has done well for us at times this season but should we be playing with a 3rd full back at home to wolves when they were ripe for a twatting ??

    Benny is restricted to twenty minute cameos where he tries too hard to impress, Tries to take everyone on, Loses the ball and takes random pot shots from every angle…


  7. Agreed. Play Barfa in his correct position to get the most out of him. Off the front man free role or on the left. If he can’t cut it then he can/will go.


  8. Having seen Ben Arfa just blend into the scenery one week and then completely change a game the next he is obviously a player who needs games under his belt and confidence.

    We always complain that our forwards just don’t get the service. Personally I cant help thinking that with Benny’s flicks and touches putting him in the hole behind Cisse and Ba can only be good for service.


  9. Defence of the helm , lets hope on sunday our defenders defend our goal like the hobbits and the rest defended Helms deep . Guts and loads of fighting spirit .


  10. I always thought Pardew saw HBA as a just-behind-the-strikers type player, not a winger. In which case we’ll need to see a change of formation, which seems even more unlikely. The signs are definitely not good for the lad.


  11. KIMTOON – living out here the radio is absolute garbage! Now and again I stream Radio 2. Sad fact of growing old is that the DJs that I listened to on Radio 1 when I was a teen , are the ones on their way out on Radio 2 now that I’m a couple (ahem!) of years older.


  12. Archie @10 Couldn’t agree more, three man attack that’s the way to go. Maybe next season when back has been strengthened.


  13. As for Ben Arfa ,i thought Pardew saw him playing in the hole ,so why does he not give the lad the chance to do that . i would prefer too see the lad playing on the right wing , he has the pace and skill to run defenders ragged from out wide and either put in a cross or dribble into the box and score himself .


  14. Jon R – makes you wonders why we bought him if he doesn’t fit?
    OK – Hughton brought him in on loan but Pardew signed him.

    Were we just banking him for big payday later on?

    After saying that he screwed up with his tactics against Spurs Pardew is hardly likely to change formation in a derby.

    Come on Pards – give the lad a run before you ship him out


  15. Archie – yeah I agree it is a strange one. My only guess is that it was right at the start of Pardew’s time here, before he had a clear idea of how he ideally saw us playing, and perhaps he was convinced of the lads abilities by other people without seeing him play himself.

    Personally I don’t think he’s as good as people say, and I don’t think he’s worth us changing our whole system just to accommodate him. But then again I don’t think he’s been given a fair crack at it, so I can see it both ways. It’s a tricky one!


  16. Archie 😀 another super read, where have you been lad, i’ve missed your sense of humor.
    I do agree that he needs to get playing every week we play we’re talking about having to keep close to Mcclean, Lennon, Bale etc etc, because they can cause us lots of bother, but still we have a player that other teams would have to worry about, but we take that problem away for them by keeping Benny on the bench, what a fuking waste of talent.
    Yeah I know he isn’t the best at defending but then he isn’t a defender, and we normally already have 7 defenders in the team .


  17. [email protected] I always measure my age by the people that slip off this mortal plain. Every time someone famous dies who i grew up watching or listening to i suddenly get very aware of my own mortality ! I turned 51 on tuesday and hate the fact i’m now the wrong side of 50 and the Toon couldn’t even give me a win as a present 👿 Still they have time to redeem themselves on sunday with a high score win with a cherry on top 😆


  18. First I think I will mention I’m a huge fan of Benny since he starts playing pro when he was 17 years old. Maybe I’m the only one but I find in this player some genius when he touches the ball, how he eliminates opponent he controls the ball, there is some romantisme in this player that it’s always a pleasure for me to see him playing even when he is frustrating sometimes and looses the ball.

    It’s not only a tactical problem concerning Ben arfa, because he has fit in 4-4-2 in a lot of games in france and there to he played some good games for us in that system. But if Pardew want Benny to be as Jonas tracking back and tackling that will never happen. But for me his best position his in the hole behind one main striker, his best period in his career was with Lyon when he play in the hole behind Benzema, their association was really genius sometimes.
    The main problem comes maybe from the fact that for Pardew wanna be so solid that he doesn’t want to play Benny because he thinks that he doesn’t help to win the ball back. But for me I think that if you have a guy like Benny in the game the opposite right or left back will not go forward because he will feel that this guy is dangerous, so he will stay behind and so Simpson doesn’t need to be cover too much. Look to the last game when he comes as a sub, you can say what you want but Jarvis comes always back to help his left back and so the Wolwes was no more dangerous.
    THE MAIN THING is that I don’t want to see Benny leave the club before he had really his chance. That is my big criticism of Pardew, he doesn’t give him a run of 10 games in a row and not putting him on the bench for 1 month after his first bad half time played. If after 10 games in the row the guy is still bad, after we need to admit that these player is not ready and you can sell him. In this season Benny doesn’t have more than 3 games played in the row in the starting XI. This kind of player needs an other management, needs to see the confidence of his manager and his partners if he doesn’t see that, he is not free in the pitch and cannot show all his talent in the game. Lippi has explained that very good for Zidane when he arrives at Juventus and in the firrst 10 games he was really bad, but he continues to say him don’t worry you will always start.


  19. ” We always complain that our forwards just don’t get the service. Personally I cant help thinking that with Benny’s flicks and touches putting him in the hole behind Cisse and Ba can only be good for service.”

    Think you’re right Archie. I can’t see a big change happening to the way we the minute, unless we get beaten by Sunderland and don’t really create much, maybe.


  20. [email protected] You make some fair points there and we all know how brilliant Zidane was. I agree Benny should be just off the striker/strikers ,sadly Pards seems too worried about our ability to defend collectivly.


  21. I don’t think it’s the fact that Benny doesn’t defend that irks Pardew, it’s that he often overcomplicates things and loses the ball rather than playing the easy pass.

    I think if he defended more, the amount he loses the ball would be more acceptable. Similarly, if he lost the ball less, he would be required to defend less to compensate.


  22. @Blip

    I agree blip, but to understand this kind of thing he needs more playing time in a game. When he has only 25 minutes and he see that we are drawing, and we are not dangerous, for him the only solution is to find the solution by himself. He explained that in a good interview 2 years ago in France. You can see that when he played a complete game he tries less QPR, fulham, Man city, even Man united. For this kind of player it’s just the time spend in the pitch that will make him better and understand more when he needs to take risk and when not, to has a better position in the game to understand more the game.


  23. And I thought I was a fan of the lad! 😆 HBA39, fair play, good post, I’m with you 100%.. very few players in football can do what he does in an attacking sense. I have watched him ever since he was so highly rated as a teen and there is very few players I have ever seen who can beat players like he can.. it’s all about football philosophy and tactics in a managers eyes but as a fan, he is the type of player that makes you love football, you have to make allowances for these type of players, more often than not they will win you games, often single handed.. do understand why Pardew hesitates to play him on the wing given our defensive frailty but at this stage we can afford to take a risk and give him a proper run of games. Worst case scenario it doesn’t work out for him and Pards is proved right. Best case scenario, Ben Arfa gets back to near his best for next season and we can buy a top 6 full back who doesnt need protecting for 90mins.


  24. @23 Jonas statistically loses the ball more than him, gives possession back to the opposition more and creates far less. Agree Pardew might have more tolerance for Gutierrez doing it because he does track back loads but end of the day the lad is an attacking player who takes on players, takes risks and is always looking to create a chance or score, every single time he gets the ball.. that is never going to change. He won’t ever track back and become a ‘safe’ player.. and furthermore, that’s not why we bought him either. Too many falling into this defence first mindset, and not having a go at you in particular mate. Just find it baffling that of all fans, Newcastle supporters who grew up on all out attacking football, with some of their best players in history being all out attackers, constantly ridiculing a lad who could potentially be our best player, if he was allowed to do what he does best. As HBA39 said, look at the effect it had on Wolves left side when he came on. Jarvis was running back to help Ward instead of the two of them knowing they could push right up because we’ll sit deep. Quite often it makes nowt difference if we do because wingers can track back all they want, but their not accustomed to tackling and don’t position themselves the same way a defender does to stop crosses, so it can still be fairly fruitless having a winger do all that. Personally I’d rather watch an opposing full back pinned in his own half and let our full back deal with their winger rather than invite pressure on ourselves. If the full back can’t do that, then they shouldn’t be playing Premier League football imo. The only way we should play like that is when we play the Man City’s of the world. It’s a small club tactic and mentality but we play like that whether it be against Wolves or Man Utd.

    Sorry rant over. Just think we’ve done well enough this season to afford taking some risks and try and play entertaining attacking football. I’d rather watch that and finish 7th or 8th than watch what I have for the past month or so against teams in the bottom half of the table.


  25. @Keith R
    I completely agree. I think to that Pardew is really in a win win situation with Benny now. Because In my opinion we will not finish not below the 7th place. So now he can take risk and play benny, if it works Pardew will be considered as a genius managing in the right way, if not Pardew will be right to because people will say he was right to doesn’t play the lad because as you see it was not good enough.
    The only thing I don’t like is when people say the guy was half of his career games in the bench so Pardew is right to not play him. That’s past, if we buy him it is because we think that he can explode there and be a star. You will recover easily the 5 mil pounds paid for him because it will be always a manager who thinks he can made this guy explode. And when we made a bad half time or a bad game, it seems easy to put all responsability in hatem and drop him like blackburn and Chelsea game. It’s not correct, because when you played a bad half time it’s normal that in second half you play better and so people after think it was all his fault.


  26. thats it mate, at this stage he has nothing to lose by giving the lad a proper chance.. come the summer if it hasn’t worked out for the lad then fair enough, but at least he has been a fair chance, not bitty sub appearances here and there.. as you said we could still cash in and not lose money on what we paid for him.. if he performs then we all get the ben arfa we have wanted since day one and an attack to be scared of.


  27. Kimtoon
    You’re depressing me mate!

    Davey Jones gone – call me a day dream believer but thats some serious shit

    There are points in your life that just hit home

    Davey Jones – The Monkees for gods sake!

    OK – I’m an old git!!!



  28. Big Dave – Agree 100 % mate

    At least put him in there and admit we got it wrong, but leave him out and WTF?

    The lad is talented. If we keep him shackled we risk, and prove, FA!

    Let him off the chain and there’s always the possibility that wonderful things could happen


  29. For them wot;s reading – we have a superb team. UNder the right circumstances we can be superb, however we just dont have the flexibility.

    Lets kick some mackem arse and move on.

    Lets forget about Europe – that’s way too far ahead.

    Take it a game at a time , a goal at a time. A win at a time.

    We can do it – we just need the confidence


  30. ” ………… you don’t buy a player for his qualities, try to change him and then wonder why he’s not performing.”

    BRAVO….A piece of genius, best analysis i’ve read about a player for months.

    From Rwanda with love


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