ALAN Pardew has admitted a clutch of his Newcastle United players are still struggling for form.
Pardew’s side came from behind to draw 1-1 with Aston Villa yesterday.
The performance was largely unconvincing, though Yohan Cabaye could have won the game for United with a late free-kick.
Hatem Ben Arfa cancelled out Ciaran Clark’s first-half opened with a stunning 59th-minute goal.
Newcastle were poor before the break, and France international Cabaye – who talked of being “fatigued” after Euro 2012 – struggled to make an impression on the game.
Papiss Demba Cisse – who was a revelation in the second half of last season – was also a peripheral figure.
However, Pardew, while acknowledging some of his players are yet to reach their normal levels, refused to single out individuals.
“You could say that about four or five of our players,” Pardew told the Gazette. “I don’t think it’s fair to put that on Yohan.
“We looked flat. We actually looked brilliant in training, and I really thought we were going to have a great day.
“That is football for you – it never pans out for you.
“I do think we’ve had a decent start. Four points from those six games isn’t the worst total.
“We’ve qualified for Europe, and we now move on to our next game.”
Meanwhile, Villa manager Paul Lambert took the bold decision to drop former United goalkeeper Shay Given and replace him with Brad Guzan,
Guzan fully justified his inclusion with fine saves from Cisse before the break, and Cabaye at the death.
“Shay’s a world-class goalkeeper, and has been for the last 15 years,” said Lambert.
“But I made a decision I thought was right for the football club, and the two saves Brad made – one in the first half and the free-kick at the end – were world class.
“Shay understands that the team is the most important thing.”