Alan Pardew's Frenchmen follow in fashionable footsteps of Arsene Wenger

This time last year Newcastle were in deep trouble but owner Mike Ashley dug into his pockets to find bargains overseas and it has paid rich dividends

It is 29 December 2012: Olivier Giroud clips a shot that hits the Newcastle crossbar, deep in injury time at the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal have already put seven past Tim Krul in the visiting goal. Newcastle United are a football club collapsing. The crushing defeat leaves them three points above the relegation zone.

Fast forward to 29 December 2013: Arsenal, now second in the Premier League, will today step out at St James' Park just six points above their hosts, who have won seven of their last nine games. Alan Pardew, the manager who endured a torrid spell after the loss at Arsenal, as he did later in the season after heavy defeats to Sunderland and Liverpool, is now contemplating a top-four bounty. "People talk about the Champions' League and there's always no mention of us," he says. "I have a wry smile when that happens. Great, write us off."

It is some turnaround. On 19 January, three weeks after the defeat to Arsenal, the club's owner Mike Ashley – in a rare foray to St James' Park – watched the team lose to Reading. The defeat, Reading's first away victory of the season, reduced the gap between Newcastle and relegation to just one point.

The reaction was dramatic. Newcastle signed five French players, two of whom were due to arrive in the summer for nothing. The expenditure, according to sources inside the club, hit £33 million. Newcastle limped to safety and Ashley, furious at failure, flew in Joe Kinnear as director of football to unsettle those in power. Derek Llambias, the managing director, resigned. Pardew refused to budge but Graham Carr, the hugely influential chief scout, offered to go too. He was talked out of it. His influence on the personnel in the team Pardew has so dramatically revived is huge.

"A lot of the French players we've introduced because of market forces," said Pardew. "Arsène Wenger's first port of call when he arrived here was the same reason, he thought he got better value.

"We have made our point within the club that we don't really want to buy any players from abroad. We want to fill up our academy with youngsters from this area and hopefully they come through. I want more British-based players but I'm certainly not going to argue with the French contingent we've got. They've been absolutely brilliant. This is a world market and maybe Arsène saw that before other managers and some other chairmen, and in that respect we owe him a bit of a debt."

FOLLOW ALL OF SUNDAY'S PREMIER LEAGUE NEWS AND UPDATES HERE

Of the six players to arrive, four have starred this term: Yoan Gouffran, Loïc Rémy, Mathieu Debuchy and Moussa Sissoko. Only Rémy had any experience of English football.

There is still doubt about where he will play next season (he is on a £2m season-long loan from QPR) but Pardew's backing of Yohan Cabaye, and his significance in the dressing room, cannot be underestimated. Pardew believes his captain will stay with the club in January, despite an unsettling mention of Arsenal again watching the player for whom they bid £10.8m in August – way short of Newcastle's valuation. Pardew and Wenger have been at loggerheads since the former's days at West Ham and the Cabaye affair did not help.

Recovering from that non-transfer has seen Pardew's man-motivation work well. That France are going to the World Cup is hugely significant. Newcastle have lost once since that victory. Rémy, Cabaye, Sissoko, Debuchy and Hatem Ben Arfa all have serious aspirations to play at the World Cup in Brazil next year. It has made motivation easier.

There was much clamour to spend heavily before the start of this season. Ashley refused and must feel vindicated by the current form. For Pardew there is some respite after fulfilling a third year in charge.

"I keep looking in the mirror thinking it's been about 20 years," he jokes. "I was a young man when I came here, but I've enjoyed it. Newcastle is a bit of a roller-coaster but we've had more ups than downs and I'm very pleased with where we are now and the progress the club has made. Hopefully we can go forward and keep ourselves around the top eight for the next three or four years. That would be the objective.

"I don't know if it's my club after three years but it's my team in the way I want it. We're on the front foot and we try to take the game to the opposition, whoever we play." Unlike a year ago, he can take on Arsenal with more than a little confidence.

Pardew's French fancies

Yoan Gouffran Striker has scored in his last five home games. Cost less than £1 million. Hit

Moussa Sissoko Has rediscovered early form. Rampaging midfielder. Hit

Mathieu Debuchy Slow start but one of the most effective right-backs in the Premier League. Hit

Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa Central defender struggled at first with physicality of English football. Has improved. Jury out

Massadio Haïdara Young left-back bought for the future. Minimal role so far. Jury out

Loïc Rémy Ten goals for the striker since season-long loan move from QPR. Hit

Newcastle United v Arsenal is on Sky Sports 1 today, kick-off 1.30pm

Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before