This is not a long article, but an invitation to my fellow bloggers and esteemed readers to debate the pro’s and con’s of letting the big man go. Maybe even an opportunity for a poll! No I don’t mean signing Kamil Grosicki in Demba’s place, but a type of vote on the subject…
Anyhow. Earlier this season Demba was sensational and was banging them in. Sublime free kicks, powerful finishes around the box, great technique closer to goal. As a main striker – the focal point of our team during forward play – the man was unplayable at times. He relished it and the team relished supplying him with the bullets. During this time he became one of the top-three strikers in the Premier League. The thing is though, that was in a standard 4-4-2 with Leon Best doing the hard graft to leave the space for Ba to exploit.
Whilst this was happening, Hatem Ben Arfa struggled to fit the routine, almost archaic 4-4-2 system and many including myself questioned the Frenchman’s future at the club. It was not a problem though, we were winning games and looking pretty solid. Then the Christmas period arrived followed by January.
Leon Best was almost flogged to the farce that is Scottish football, Stevie Taylor was struck down with another long term injury and out of nowhere we signed a striker even better than Demba Ba himself! As these changes swept in, the tides shifted our side’s set up and style of play. The 4-3-2-1 resulted in new #9 and Godlike footballer of the Tyne being Pardew’s new, improved focal point of all things Black and White.
This saw Demba shifted out wide and whilst his Senegalese compatriot banged them in, Ba’s goals disappeared from the radar. Meanwhile Benny boy was a man reborn. He built up an almost telepathic understanding with the Toon Army’s new cult hero and scored arguably the Premier League’s goal of the season. He started to chase back effectively and now looks like one of the best players in the league. Unfortunately Cisse and Ben Arfa’s prominence has come at Demba’s cost.
Don’t get me wrong. He is a grafter and more than does his fair share for the team. He does not go running to the press to complain about playing out of position and is an obvious benefit to Cisse whilst he settles in. But in the long run? When these two play in a 4-4-2 together Benny looks uncomfortable and the team creates a lot less chances with Cabaye sat further back – who is our poor man’s version of Paul Scholes – albeit our version actually knows how to tackle – and pick on kids it would seem.
The long run could see Ba happy to hand over the plaudits – comfortable to see out his footballing days as a workhorse with no star player adorned limelight whilst his international team-mate takes all the glory, waiting patiently for those times when Cisse is injured or unavailable to take his chance as the main man once more – but with a supposed reasonably cheap get out clause in his contract is this really going to happen?
There are plenty of top sides across Europe just begging for a player like Demba to be their main man – especially at a cut price. Once Cisse has settled in will Pardew be asking himself if it would benefit the team to let the for former Hammer go? Benny would benefit from the 4-3-2-1 system and I think the partnership we should concentrate on improving is Cisse-Benny, not Cisse-Ba. Especially with players like Pienaar and Junior Hoilett soon to become available for next to nothing. They would add pace and guile to our advanced wing positions and are both examples of fast, tricky players with an end product that Gutierrez and Obertan lack far too often for my liking.
Another thing to consider is the fact that Pardew seems happy to let Leon Best go. Messi he is not, agreed, but he was great fodder for Demba. If he goes, who can be that distraction fot Ba when Cisse is not about? Shola Ameobi is a great bit part player these days, but a regular starter? No thanks… Nile Ranger? Give it a rest. On top of that – what happens during the African Cup of Nations during 2013? OK this season we fared reasonably soundly – but you can’t tell me we wont suffer next season without our best two strikers. We got off lightly this season due to Senegal’s abysmal display. That probably wont happen again next season…
If Demba moved on to pastures new this summer it would give us the opportunity to replace him with another quality player but from somewhere a little closer to home – who will still be available to us during January/February time…. It may even do our team some good as the last couple of games in particular he has looked a little out of sorts. A bit like a square peg in a round hole… As I said a minute ago, he’s one of our best two strikers in years. But our best formation only has room for one striker. That will always be Cisse, who is just exceptional.
Don’t get me wrong. The man will always have a place in my heart for what he has done for us this season – but I just cannot see him being happy going from the main man to being a workhorse who supplies the bullets to his mate for the rest of his days. That’s a hard pill to swallow when you know how good you can be as the focal point yourself.