QPR v Newcastle: Barton reunion is least of Pardew’s problems

Toon boss rues failure to land a new number nine

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew spent the dying days of the transfer window desperately trying to plug the gap left by the departure of one of his prized players – and it wasn’t Joey Barton.

It is eight months since striker Andy Carroll completed his �35million move from Tyneside to Liverpool, and Newcastle have yet to find a replacement for their beloved number nine.

That is not for the want of trying on the manager’s part. Indeed, as the clock ticked down on transfer deadline day last week, the Magpies were linked with just about every striker in Europe – with Kenwyne Jones, Peter Crouch, Daniel Sturridge and Federico Macheda just a few names who were mooted for moves. Yet not a single one ended the day in the black and white shirt.

The suggestion from those close to the club is that the Newcastle board were holding out for the perfect deal – and ended up missing out on the lot, much to Pardew’s fury. The manager reacted by refusing to speak to the press until he had held talks with the men upstairs.

With the season still in its infancy, Pardew already has plenty on his plate. He has done well to find cover after the departure of Barton and Kevin Nolan, but has a forward line which now relies heavily on the unconvincing shoulders of Shola Ameobi and Leon Best, and new signing Demba Ba.

And yet Newcastle’s start to the season has been impressive: after the opening day goalless draw with Arsenal, the Magpies have won at Sunderland and edged out Fulham at home.

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That is in part due to the impact of the players Pardew actually did manage to recruit, the most impressive of whom has been central midfielder Yohan Cabaye, signed for �4.5million from French champions Lille. Cabaye has started all four of Newcastle’s matches so far this season, sitting alongside Cheke Tiote in Newcastle’s uninspiring 4-5-1 formation.

Pardew further bolstered his midfield in the shape of Manchester United winger Gabriel Obertan, and Sylvain Marveaux, who was pinched from under the noses of Liverpool on deadline day, giving Newcastle an added dimension on the left.

With left-back Jose Enrique having moved to Liverpool, 20-year-old Davide Santon should see plenty of action in his first season with the Toon, adding an attacking dimension to a defence which has conceded only one goal in Newcastle’s three league games.

But up front is where the problems lie, with neither Ameobi, Best nor Peter Lovenkrands likely to set the goal-scoring books alight this season. Pardew has targeted a top-10 finish, but it is hard to see where the goals will come from.

On what promises to be a crackling night at Loftus Road, when all eyes will, understandably, be on Barton, Pardew is likely to play a five-man midfield to stifle the Rs’ midfield creativity.

Newcastle’s main threat will probably come from the wings, in the shape of Obertan and Jonas Gutierrez, but that is unlikely to be enough to deny QPR a second win of the season, and their first at Loftus Road – 2-1 to the Rs.

Follow Ian Cooper on Twitter @QPRTimes