French striker Emmanuel Rivière has yet to score in the Premier League, but the problem is Alan Pardew, not the striker.
When Newcastle United paid €8 million for AS Monaco striker Emmanuel Rivière there wasn’t a great feeling of loss from the Monegasque club. His goal-scoring record look good on paper, but by watching his performances you knew it wasn’t a huge loss for the Ligue 1 side. Certainly not a player that was irreplaceable.
All reports suggested that Rivière was a very capable player, someone with potential and at 24 years old, it was still within all realms of possibility that he could blossom into an excellent Premier League player.
However, the scouting reports from France contained the caveat that Rivière was not the type of player to lead the line on his own. It was clear from his time in France for Saint-Etienne, Toulouse and Monaco that the forward needed a partner. He needs someone to play off, someone to take the attention of the defenders, leaving space in behind the defence where he could utilise his skill and pace.
On Monday night, Newcastle United lose 1-0 to Stoke City and the performance was something the Toon Army has seen too much of this season. Rivière started up on his own, and for the whole of the first half he cut a lonely, isolated figure in the opponents half.
Rivière barely touched the ball, and managed one measly shot on goal. At half-time, Alan Pardew had the chance to switch things up, but in the end he made a predictable and ineffective move. Rivière was removed and on in his place came striker Papiss Demba Cisse. No change in tactics from Pardew, it was another like-for-like change.
Cisse was the right player to bring on, but it should have been for a midfielder. Give both strikers the chance to team up, let them work off each other and try to get the best out of a striker that scored twice against Crystal Palace in the League Cup.
This won’t be news to Newcastle United fans, but the problem isn’t with the ability of Rivière, the problem is having a man in charge that can’t see how to get the best out of the players he has available to him.
It is too easy to lament the signing of a top striker in the summer, but the truth is, Pardew does have the players to be able to change the system.
Yoan Gourcuff has mostly played on the left of the Newcastle attack, but this is a player that used to lead the line for Bordeaux. In the 18 months before his move to the North-East the forward scored 22 times for Les Girondins in Ligue 1.
It doesn’t matter who Pardew plays alongside Rivière, be it Cisse, Facundo Ferreyra, Ayoze Perez or Gouffran, the most important part is that he tries someone.
If the Newcastle United boss wants to save his job he needs to try something. It is obviously clear, the problem right now is not the players that NUFC signed this summer; it’s the man deciding where they play on the pitch. It’s time for Pardew to stop being stubborn and use the players he has to the best of their ability.