Is FA Cup exit a blessing in disguise for Newcastle?

Newcastle United’s 2-0 defeat at Brighton in the FA Cup comes on top of a run of poor results in the league, a succession of debilitating injuries, and the loss of their star striker.

Whilst a decent run in the cup could have provided some relief for the manager, the players, and the fans in what is steadfastly becoming a season marred by their numerous losses – loss of key players both to injury, suspension and the transfer market, and the loss of games that has resulted – boss Alan Pardew may be a able to take a silver lining from their defeat at Brighton.

Newcastle have now won just one game from their last 11 in the Premier League and that came against the league’s basement side QPR on December 22nd 2012. Despite scoring 7 goals in their following three games, they failed to take any points from Manchester United at Old Trafford, Arsenal at the Emirates, and Everton at St James’ Park.

That’s jus 3 points taken from a possible 33 since their 1-1 draw with Liverpool at Anfield back on November 4th 2012. Alan Pardew is not exaggerating when he said after the cup defeat on Saturday that the club were in “real danger” of being relegated from the top tier. That is very much the reality of the challenge they now face.

Losing their star striker Demba Ba to Chelsea last week will have undoubtedly demoralized the team, the manager and the fans – and for just £7 million it will feel like they’ve robbed in broad daylight. He scored twice on his debut on Saturday, in Chelsea’s 5-1 FA Cup demolition of Southampton.

Ba is the league’s third highest scorer with 13 goals – he was what was keeping them the right side of that relegation line and, without him, it’s going to be twice as hard as it would have been to pick themselves up.

However, losing one player is not the reason Newcastle are struggling – losing 10 key players to injury is undoubtedly the largest factor. They haven’t been playing that poorly – definitely not poorly enough to warrant relegation.

Without Ryan Taylor, Haris Vuckic, Dan Gosling, Yohan Cabaye, Steven Taylor, Hatem Ben Arfa, Jonas Gutierrez, Danny Simpson, Fabricio Coloccini, and Papiss Cisse it’s no surprise they lost to a Championship side. Pardew really had no options whatsoever.

The players he does have fit are getting jaded and fatigued because there’s no respite for them. We saw that in their defeat against Arsenal – for 70-odd minutes the game was evenly contested at 3-3 and in the last quarter of an hour, their minds and bodies just gave way and Arsenal ended up winning 7-3.

Pardew will be deeply disappointed by the cup exit but I have a feeling he may count his blessings come May. Newcastle need to put all their energy into avoid relegation in the league and they don’t have the depth in their squad at the moment to aim for anything other than that.

They’re still in the Europa League and that competition’s propensity to jade and jetlag teams is going to be a real drain on Newcastle’s squad resources. Being out of all the domestic cups is no bad thing at this point.

They still have the remainder of January to bring in some extra depth to the squad and replace Ba as best they can and they’ll certainly be boosted by the imminent returns of Cisse, Coloccini, Simpson, Cabaye, and Steven Taylor who are all expected back this month and Ben Arfa should be back in the first week of February.

With those players back in the team and possibly and extra one or two brought in this month, they can push on – first things first, get themselves well clear of the drop zone and then march themselves back up the table where they started this season.

image: © machernucha

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