A second relegation within the space of four years would be disastrous for this club and would take some time to recover from.
That may sound dramatic, but if you look at our playing staff then compared to what we have now you can perhaps see my cause for concern. So many of our key players are also now full international players who will, quite rightly, want to play at the highest level so they get the chance to play for their country. They won’t get that in the second tier in England so I imagine a lot of them would be off like a shot should someone take a gamble on them.
The problem these players have is that the options available to them might have narrowed down somewhat due to their poor showing this season. As I said above, I’m sure some clubs would take a gamble on them and sign them up, but in all likelihood they won’t be top clubs. It’s simplistic in its view, but how good is a player who ends up relegated from the Premier League? And last time around I don’t remember many top clubs coming in for our supposedly “star” players of the time.
Now it’s all well and good to say that these players are tied down to long-term contracts so will command a fee, but the problem is that so many of them have regressed so much from last season to this I’m starting to wonder if these long contracts were such a well thought out idea after all.
A lot of the blame has been put at the door of Alan Pardew, and rightly so as he seems to have regressed from last season. Whether it’s actually him regressing so much or whether it’s the players at his disposal that have regressed leaving him with few options is up for debate. Perhaps it’s a combination of both?
Look at some of the players as a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Take Cheik Tiote. When was the last time he played like we know he can? I can’t remember a game where I’ve thought Cheik has looked like Cheik since his debut season in the Premier League, and that was getting on for three years ago.
It doesn’t stop there. Jonas Gutierrez has got so bad it’s unreal. Granted he was never one to score lots or create lots, but he was solid enough if unspectacular. The list goes on, Cabaye and even Tim Krul have got worse in my humble opinion. Even recent additions like Moussa Sissoko seem to have gone backwards since arriving on the scene. His position hasn’t changed, it’s still the same one that he was playing in at the start when all and sundry were purring over him. Even those absent through injury have got worse, like Fabricio Coloccini, have failed to regularly reach the high standards he’s set himself ever since relegation in 2009.
Now I’m not defending Alan Pardew by any stretch of the imagination, but can anyone seriously say that so many players losing form is his fault? Maybe it is and I’m just being overcritical of the players? Maybe last season we collectively overachieved? Maybe this season we’re collectively underachieving? Maybe our expectations are too high? Mind you, I’d like to think we had every right to expect to progress this season after what happened last season.
It just hasn’t happened though, for whatever reason…