In a time of need, a prolific goalscorer is just what you need, and we have one, but he's not playing, why you ask? I don't know either, and its annoying, really annoying.
Following his emphatic return to the Wanderers in January on loan, the signing of Adam Le Fondre was made permanent in the summer and is now available at our disposal for the next two seasons. However, the big switch up in the summer has meant that Le Fondre seemingly no longer fits in to Phil Parkinson's plans.
Having scrapped the back three and forward two, we know face a period without our biggest threat in front of goal because we still seem to be under the illusion that we can't drop Gary Madine. This article is not intended to in any way belittle Madine's performances this season, but his lack of contribution in terms of goals and the struggle that he faces by being left up front on his own has meant that we no longer have the combination of a favoured and effective strike force.
Since the return of Josh Vela to the number ten role, we have been limited in terms of who we can play up front as we now seem to be playing a 4-2-3-1 formation. However, Adam Armstrong, who has appeared to be the weak link in recent weeks, is improvising as a left winger, which, for several reasons, has confused me.
Despite his pace and low centre of gravity, one, he's a striker, and two, we have two or three actual wide men sat on the bench, so why don't we just use them, and/or switch the formation up so that we can fit Alfie back in and play a conventional 4-4-2. It is clear that we need someone playing off Madine, which to an extent Vela does, but another striker makes more sense. I don't think that the answer would necessarily involve dropping Vela though, I think Le Fondre should replace Darren Pratley as the second forward and drop Vela deeper into that central midfield role.
Despite Vela's freedom in the number ten role, the formations which accommodate that don't seem to suit us. For that reason, I'd be looking to drop Pratley. This may be an unpopular opinion considering his recent improvements and the criticism that he has received prior to this good run, but when we have better attacking players at are disposal, it is more important that we utilise them. In addition to this, Karl Henry is by far the superior central midfield commander in that department and should perhaps even be offered the role of skipper which he seemed to take upon himself vocally on Saturday anyway.
Saturday's introduction of our two other wide-men, Craig Noone and Filipe Morais, more-so Noone's, made us look a better team once Armstrong was replaced. However, we still seemed to be lacking someone to put the ball in the net. It was clear to see that the fans, still as faithful to Alfie as ever, were keen to see him come on and eventually almost forced Parkinson into making the change with their vocal presence.
It's never nice to see the fans turn on a manager or enforce changes, but it seems to be the case with Le Fondre this year generally, but I don't think Parky is completely blind to this. Despite so many perceiving it as ALF being left out whenever possible, I don't think that this is necessarily the case. I have heard it said many times that Le Fondre wasn't a Parkinson signing and that it was just to get the fans on board, but he wouldn't have signed him if he didn't want him, or I hope that's the case at least.
When you consider how good we looked when Alfie teamed up with Gary Madine last season, it seems crazy to not re-instate that partnership. Now you might say, well he did to begin with, but only when we played with a back three. That's true, but he also continued with them until Armstrong came along. It therefore begs the question, what is Armstrong doing so well to keep Le Fondre out of the side, well, I'll let you into a little secret.
Allegedly, we are contractually obliged to play Armstrong so that Newcastle United pay his wages in full, if he doesn't play, we have to pay them. Based on this information, this to me, feels like the only legitimate reason why Armstrong is picked every week.
Given that we can't drop Armstrong then, what are our other options you ask? Well, as I said, drop Pratley. Despite my reluctance to drop Vela into a deeper role, it's the only way to keep both in the side as well as Armstrong and the form of the other lads such as Ameobi and Karl Henry. As much as you could argue that we should be willing to sacrifice having to pay Armstrong's wages to play Alfie, but he wouldn't work as a winger anyway so it seems like you'd have to look elsewhere in order to include him.
When you consider the realistic chances of Parkinson dropping Pratley, which in case you haven't noticed, are absolutely non-existent, it seems like we could be in for a rather long wait or an enforced change through injury before we see our number nine back in the side. This seems to have been re-itterated to us this morning as tonight's U23 clash with Sheffield Wednesday is likely to include ALF, emphasising how far out of favour he really is.
It's really sad to see him go to waste and could potentially see him sent out on loan or move on elsewhere in summer, which again, would be a real shame, but I'm hoping we'll see more of him after Christmas, providing Armstrong returns to Newcastle and his deal isn't renewed, but this all remains to be seen.
So, we have to trust Parky to either eventually see sense and bring Le Fondre back into the mix or have to wait it out until space is freed up and will return after Christmas whether Parky likes it or not. Either way, I hope this gets resolved because I can't bare to see another hugely talented striker with an incredible eye for goal go to waste. Until then, I hope we can continue to progress and eventually see ourselves out of danger.