Pardew – Jack Of All Styles, Master Of None

I like Alan Pardew a lot. He was a senior pro when the likes of Gareth Southgate and I were 20 at Crystal Palace.

He has great knowledge of the game, been in it a long time now (I remember him and Steve Gritt at Charlton) and has the intelligence, football background and nouse to be one of the best English managers in my opinion.

That’s the smoke blown up his backside bit, and rightly so, he did get Newcastle to 5th and manager of the year after all, so what is this curious tale of starting well with clubs and tailing off badly? Not one pundit has said anything other than “he’s under pressure”. So I’ll tell you why.

Alan Pardew sits between two coaching styles, one from his playing days and one he feels he needs to embrace as a ‘modern coach’

and for me that means his sides become jack of a few trades, master of none.

Eddie Howe, long ball, direct or passing manager? Easy peasy!

Pep, same question. Even easier!

Pulis, pass and move or disciplined and hard working with directness? You get what I’m saying!

Mixed Up Method
Now answer this. What’s Alan Pardew’s style? Pure football? Nope. Lots of long balls? Sometimes. I’ve watched all of his teams (he wanted me to join him at Reading back in the day) and I can’t honestly put my finger on what his methodology is.

He came from a 4-4-2 Palace under Steve Coppell which were physically big, well organised, very good at set pieces and finished 3rd in the last season of the old first division, Cup finalists too, but that side too had identity issues which seem to be part of his DNA.

They were neither pure long ball a la Wimbledon of the time (many Wimbledon Crazy gang players ended up at Palace) nor passing side, and I wonder whether this hybrid of styles has had such a profound impact on Pardew’s teams that this clash can and seemingly does cause confusion leading to dramatic collapses in form.

The patterns are so similar between Newcastle and Palace that it doesn’t look like coincidence.

Positive starts, good football, solid characters, a little flair followed by formulaic, one dimensional plodding, defensively unsound and a huge departure in style from when his team’s play well.

What’s the solution?
Be one or the other and live or die by it with a caveat that a change of style in games (something Newcastle and Palace fans suggest Alan isn’t great at identifying) may be needed to grind out results occasionally.

If I were Alan I’d go the Ranieri route. 4-4-2, hard working players committed to the cause, with room for a Cabaye like Leicester have room for a Mahrez. I think his personality and experience would suit this kind of team too as he’s an easy personality to follow and trust.

It’s when his teams are expected to kick on, add complexity and fantasy to the pattern of play that I’ve noticed things start to unravel, maybe with a highly passionate manger getting frustrated too at what he sees are a better standard of player (Cabaye/Benteke/Zaha) not being able to consistently drive this style change.

Alan is a good manager, you really don’t get 5th at the mad house that is Newcastle without something special about you, it wasn’t a fluke. But Newcastle and Palace fans do have a point, great promise always seems to fall away and fall away quickly and I think if he’s going to be successful, he needs, like a Pep or a Pulis, to have a definitive way of playing.

One thing is for sure, players respond to all too simple messages, whatever the style and maybe Alan’s hybrid just gets lost in a 38 game sauce.