There are no two ways about it; Newcastle United have one of the most potent strike forces they have had in a long time. The firepower that Ba, Cisse and Ben Arfa possess has torn through teams recently; none more so than Liverpool at the weekend, and what better time to hit form than the final quarter or so of the season.
Demba Ba has been a sensation for NUFC, signing for nothing (fee wise) in the summer from West Ham and bagging himself 16 Premier League goals in 29 appearances. In Hatem Ben Arfa, Newcastle have one of France’s top talents who finally looks to be reaching the heights we all hoped he would and Papiss Cisse, with 7 goals in 7 top flight games, has been nothing short of brilliant.
It is however, the aforementioned Demba Ba that worries us a little. Since the arrival of his Senegalese colleague to NUFC in January, Ba has managed just 1 Premier League goal in 8 games compared to 7 in 7 from Cisse. The new system adopted (FINALLY) by Alan Pardew has seen Ba play slightly wider than earlier in the season, some even suggesting he doesn’t look as entertained as he once was.
Ba is still yet to sign a new contract at Newcastle amid whispers a while back that something was on the table for him. And, until that gets sorted, that doubt of his whereabouts next season will continue to play on the Geordie Faithful’s minds.
Is it all doom and gloom though? Would you leave a team progressing like Newcastle United? Is he really bothered about his goalscoring and positional change when others are scoring and NUFC are winning? Most importantly for this article, other than his goals, has the arrival of Cisse actually changed much about Demba Ba’s game?
The first thing noticed is the amount Ba has seen the ball since Cisse’s arrival. He now has nearly 50% more touches of the ball per game compared to before Papiss Cisse signed as well as making 57% more passes per game at a better success rate.
Ba has only made 2 assists all season in the Premier League, 1 each either side of Cisse’s signing, but his goal scoring obviously is the biggest issue – scoring in 79% of games on average compared to 13% now.
Having said that though, it isn’t because he isn’t being presented with the chances. Demba Ba actually has slightly more shots per game since Papiss Cisse came into the team (0.09). He also, probably because of the slight change in positional roles, produces more crosses per game than he did pre Cisse.
Finally, a look at how Ba has changed in terms of his provision for others shows that, although his personal goals tally may have declined, he now creates more chances for others per game on average than he did prior to his fellow countryman’s signing.
Based on the numbers, Demba Ba’s performance since the ACON and since Papiss Cisse’s signing for Newcastle is of no worry whatsoever! Yes, his goal record has deteriorated, but he is not the only forward for that to happen to this season. Since Christmas, Robin van Persie has scored just 9 f his 26 Premier League goals and Sergio Aguero has managed just 4 of his 17 in that same time.
Ba may look to be playing a role different that he did earlier in the season, but that isn’t down to Papiss Cisse. The introduction to the forward line up of Hatem Ben Arfa, where his defensive duties are restricted, have seen Ba start in a wider left position. But actually, because of the way HBA plays the game, Ba still plies his trade mainly through the middle. He just doesn’t seem to be getting the ‘rub of the green’ at present.
Someone as professional as Ba won’t be too disillusioned by his lack of goals since January. He clearly is still getting the chances and he is seeing his teammate do very, very well in his new league. What will be most important to Demba Ba, will be Newcastle’s development over this season and their plans for the future.
One thing is for sure – NUFC haven’t looked as exciting as they do currently for a long, long Premier League time, and Ba will know that!« Tiote eyes Europe, and not just the Europa League! | Newcastle Utd Youth Talent – Interview with JJ Hooper »