Pardew - My Strongest Team Is As Good As Any In Premiership!
Memories of last season's free-scoring surge up the table have become increasingly distant for Alan Pardew, although there have been mitigating factors.
Suspensions and a seemingly never-ending injury list which will rob Pardew of nine senior players for the game at the Emirates Stadium have exposed the recruitment gamble they took during the summer when only midfielder Vurnon Anita, who will miss out against the Gunners with a badly bruised ankle, was added to the main pool.
Newcastle have only three specialist central defenders and, with Steven Taylor (pictured right) injured and Mike Williamson serving a one-match ban, utility man James Perch seems likely to be pressed into service alongside skipper Fabricio Coloccini.
Cheick Tiote's return from suspension is a boost, but with Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa and Jonas Gutierrez having been joined on the sidelines by Anita, teenager Gael Bigirimana too could have a role to play.
The selection headache, coupled with the ongoing speculation over Demba Ba's future and a brewing row with the Nigeria Football Association over Shola Ameobi's participation or otherwise at the African Nations Cup, has left Pardew fighting fires on several different fronts, although he is taking a philosophical view.
Alan Pardew: "We haven't got the riches of some of the bigger clubs.
"I looked at Everton last year and after 18 games, they had 20 points, so they had a similar first half to the one we have had - and in similar circumstances, I might add, with injuries and the like.
"What we must do is replicate their second half of last season because it's fed into this year, where they find themselves in the Champions League places.
"I know, looking at my best team, I am not far away, but underneath that we need to strengthen. I don't think there's any doubt about that.
"Our morale has always been good, but I want it to hurt, defeat should be hurtful for Newcastle United.
"You can't accept defeat, even at Old Trafford, and especially in the manner it was. You can't be going around smiling and all being happy with that.
"We need to be recharged. We have got to focus on Arsenal."
Source: Newcastle United Mad
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