ALAN Pardew’s adamant Newcastle United haven’t become a long-ball team.
But the club’s manager admits his players must start taking more “risks” in the opposition half if they are to play their way out of trouble.
Statistical analysis has shown Newcastle to be playing more long balls than any other Premier League team ahead of tonight’s game against Stoke City, often ridiculed for their direct approach.
Last season United attacked with pace and purpose through the middle.
But this term Pardew’s injury-hit side have struggled to find any kind of attacking fluency, something which wasn’t helped at the St Mary’s Stadium on Sunday by the absence through injury of the creative vision of Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye.
Newcastle’s 2-0 defeat to Southampton, their third successive Premier League defeat, has seen more criticism levelled at Pardew and his team.
Pardew doesn’t buy into the statistics about long balls, and he even believes his team hasn’t always been direct enough in its attacking moves.
“It’s misleading,” Pardew told the Gazette. “You can use as many stats as you like to criticise a team – you could use stats to criticise Manchester United if you wanted to.
“The bottom line for us is to win. We need to find a way to win. I think we’ve played and overplayed in games. We haven’t gone long enough.
“Other times, we’ve played and overplayed in games, and haven’t gone long enough.
“Other times, we’ve gone long from free-kicks and deliveries from deep when we should play smaller.”
Pardew admits confidence has steadily drained from his beleaguered players, who know they will be perilously close to the relegation zone should they suffer another defeat at the Britannia Stadium.
And he’s looking to his attacking players to be bold enough to take people on rather than make the easy pass.
“I think our risk taking needs to improve,” he added. “When people talk about confidence, I think you are talking about risk taking.
“When you’re confident, you take risks. You make that forward run, or that forward pass, or that shot at goal.
“You trust somebody to pass it into midfield. We’re lacking taking risks. On Sunday (at Southampton) we lacked it.
“Forward running, people taking care of the ball, or people bringing others into play and trusting them – it was all lacking.
“So therefore I’ve tried to highlight that. Hopefully, that will help.”