What has happened to our clubs leading man. Many reasons are being thrown around to explain the drop in form but are they correct.
Seven matches have passed since Demba Ba last found the back of the net for Newcastle. The clubs leading scorer has played every minute since his return from international duty but has had to watch his Senegalese team mate Papiss Cisse steal the plaudits.
To add to his troubles, Demba had a penalty saved that may have given the Magpies all 3 points against their fierce rivals Sunderland. Even still, the fans have no reason to criticise one of their favourites as his work rate and general play have still been a feature of a return to good form for the club.
Out of Form
Of course it is quite possible that Demba Ba is just having a bad run of games. Since moving to England, the former West Ham man has been consistently scoring and is due a dip. An impressive return of 23 goals in 39 appearances, with 16 of those for the Toon, means you can have nothing but praise for a man who cost the club nothing in terms of transfer fees.
It is understood that if it were not for the forwards love of the number 19 shirt then the iconic number 9 may have been his. In fact Ba is quoted as to saying “if someone comes in and you want to give him No9, don't even ask me – just give it to him if he wants it”.
When Papiss Cisse arrived in January, he was given the iconic shirt. Demba has had to help the new signing settle as much as possible so as a result he may have lost focus on his own game. It was always thought that the pressure of emulating a Tyneside hero in Alan Shearer would affect the form of the man who tries; instead its presence in the side is being attributed to the cause of the problem for another.
Striking a Partnership
Those who follow Newcastle week by week will be upset to hear people claim that the arrival of Cisse has prevented Demba from flourishing. As international team mates, all expected them to carry a partnership into the side quickly without considering their styles of play. But during this year’s African Cup of Nations the Senegal coach only started Demba Ba and Cisse together on one occasion and neither netted a goal in a disappointing tournament. So the partnership has never really existed.
Some would argue that they have both played well together, which is generally true even though in terms of direct link up Demba and Cisse have combined for a goal on only one occasion (against Liverpool). I think it’s harsh to criticise the pair’s suitability. Unfair pressure was placed on them to settle in quickly and it’s not like they haven’t produced any goals between them.
Also, they do not necessarily need to form a ‘partnership’. Both are goal scorers and we should be looking for the creative players in the team to provide service to each of them just as we did when Ba was partnering the likes of Best and Ameobi. They never struck up a real ‘partnership’ but were scoring goals and that’s all we need Ba and Cisse to do whilst maintaining an impressive work rate to defend from the front.
Fitting Everyone In
In recent weeks Demba Ba could be forgiven for not scoring as he’s been asked to adapt to a left wing role, and the team have been winning. Alan Pardew has experimented with the shape of his side; successfully implementing a 4-3-3 at times against West Brom and in a victory over Liverpool.
There can be several reasons for steering away from a standard 4-4-2 but I’m certain one of those is to find a suitable place for Hatem Ben Arfa. The skilful winger is criticised for not having enough work ethic to play the right midfield role without leaving his team short, therefore he is better deployed in a more advanced role.
To do this, only one striker is required and it is Demba Ba that has lost out. Papiss Cisse is in form and spearheads the attack. Pardrew has never shown signs of dropping Demba (rightfully so) and has instead asked him to play out wide. He should be praised for his ability to adapt; against Liverpool his average position shows signs of how well he did so by not drifting too far away from his role.
This change in role for Demba has and will always affect his goal return. The position does not suit his qualities; he’s not likely to take on a full back or pull wide to deliver a cross. Even if he did, it is him we should want on the end of the ball in as he possesses the greatest threat in the air.
The Future for Demba
We all hope that he finds the goal scoring form that put us in such a strong league position. I think most of the reasons being thrown around and looked at in this article are over reactions. In time, he will score again and a return to his normal position will help. In a talkSPORT interview Alan Pardew had this to say:
“Demba Ba looks happy, although he’s been happier because I’ve asked him to do a chore on the left at the minute. I can keep him happy because I’ll put him back through the middle soon and that will cheer him up.”
So it’s no time to worry for Newcastle fans although we should all have one eye on the situation. Rumours surrounding a release clause in his deal will haunt us until a new contract is signed. Some naive football followers will say we may not need him with Cisse and Ben Arfa on fire but it should be remembered that you cannot rely on just one or two players to score goals over an entire season.
Demba Ba fired us into the great start we enjoyed at the start of the season and it is a relief to know that when goals are not coming his way we will have Cisse to bring it home and vice versa.
Hopefully we will retain our position in the league (or better it) and secure a European place. If we do then it’ll vital to retain our attacking options and maybe add a few more.
In the mean time we can be happy with the efforts of our leading scorer, who is selflessly giving his all for the team even when out of position. Seven games remain this season and I’d put money on Demba scoring some goals before it’s all over.