Coloccini presence buoys Pardew
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew is hoping skipper Fabricio Coloccini can help spark a revival.
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2. Fabricio Coloccini
The 30-year-old Argentina international returned to action at Stoke on Wednesday evening after a three-match domestic ban and although he could not lead his side to a positive result at the Britannia Stadium as the Potters produced a late fightback, there were signs of significant improvement.
Coloccini was sent off for a late challenge on Liverpool's Luis Suarez during the 1-1 draw at Anfield on November 4, and Pardew believes the defeats the Magpies suffered at the hands of West Ham, Swansea - both at St James' Park - and Southampton in his absence were no coincidence.
He said: "He missed three games and we lost all three, so that gives you some indication."
Coloccini's importance to the club was illustrated in March when he was handed a new four-year contract.
However, even his presence at the heart of the Newcastle defence could not prevent the last-gasp capitulation at Stoke as Jonathan Walters and substitute Cameron Jerome cancelled out, then overhauled Papiss Cisse's early second-half strike.
As a result, Pardew's men head into Monday night's home clash with Wigan desperately needing a win if they are not to be sucked into the thick of a relegation scrap, which was not even on their horizon as they kicked off the campaign.
The Magpies have not lost four consecutive Premier League games since the 2008-09 campaign, at the end of which they slipped out of the top flight and they simply cannot afford to countenance a repeat with a bumper new broadcasting deal due to come into effect next season.
Injuries, suspensions and the demands of a first European campaign in five years have all played a part in a start which has been less than impressive and they continue to have an impact.
James Perch, who returned from a thigh problem on Wednesday evening, will sit out on Monday after collecting a fifth booking of the campaign, while Steven Taylor and Yohan Cabaye will be sidelined until February by injury and the likes of Hatem Ben Arfa and Shola Ameobi are also currently on the casualty list.
Those selection problems have left Pardew trying to plug holes while at the same time seeking a solution to the kind of issues which he has largely avoided during his near two-year reign on Tyneside to date.
He said: "As a manager and as a coaching team, we have looked at everything we have done.
"We have changed some stuff, which we think might help, and we have to change the environment because we have got a different set of players now.
"It's all very much now about us all pulling really strongly in whichever role we are given."