I still find myself well and truly on the fence when it comes to Demba Ba, at times I find him cumbersome and believe that he restricts the talents of Papiss Cisse however at others and with Saturday evenings fixture away at Arsenal a perfect example I find him unplayable with his instinctive knack of being in the right place at the right time and his physicality contributing to the high number of Premier League goals he has registered during his spells at both West Ham United and Newcastle United. With the January transfer window just hours from opening and the speculation surrounding Newcastle’s Senegalese centre forward with discussions about a move to European Champions Chelsea I wonder if it would indeed be better for Alan Pardew to take the money for Ba and strengthen the squad in other areas with the Magpies it seems being set for a relegation dogfight after the dizzying heights of the 2011-2012 campaign.
A release clause of £7 Million is all that separates Demba Ba from the move to a team in the top four it appears he so desperately craves, having built his reputation in England up first at West Ham when he seemed at times to be on a one man crusade to keep the Hammers in the division and then at Newcastle where in the first half of last season’s campaign his goals set the tone for Newcastle’s future successes it seems as if Ba is set to advance his career in English football once again with Chelsea and Arsenal both having him in their sights. In modern football with clubs taking all possible measures to ensure they receive a fair payment for their stays it is clear that Ba always had the intention of moving to a bigger club than Newcastle or else why would he have insisted there be such a low release clause in his contract, and who can blame him? You only get one career as a footballer and who are we to chastise Demba Ba for wanting to make the most of his.
A move to Chelsea would seem the most likely for Ba following the news yesterday that Chelsea’s representatives would be holding preliminary tentative talks with the former Hoffenheim man’s entourage and although these talks we believe were unsuccessful the move is still very much on the cards. Chelsea, resurgent under Rafa Benitez have been in need of another striker since the departure of Didier Drogba this past summer and with the form of Fernando Torres being at best inconsistent a striking partner to take the burden of the Spaniard’s shoulders is a necessity at Stamford Bridge, there has been talk about Falcao however it seems both he and Atletico are keen to stay connected at least until the Summer so a cut price move for Ba would be a perfect opportunity for Chelsea to bridge the gap between Didier Drogba’s exit and the finding of a long term replacement.
Ba’s physical play would not be a far cry from that of Drogba and as such Chelsea’s current team wouldn’t find it too difficult to provide him service and with his goal scoring record having stood up everywhere he has played there is very little risk on Chelsea’s part. Ba himself would favour the move having already lived in London and the prospect of Champions League football next season albeit if he is not eligible to aid Chelsea’s charge in the Europa League.
Arsenal also find themselves in the market for a centre forward having lost Robin Van Persie last summer and now facing a scramble to persuade Theo Walcott to sign a new deal before the might of Europe can offer him a contract from midnight tonight. The signing of Olivier Giroud has not exactly seen Arsenal replace the goals Van Persie provided and a little support for the former Montpellier man would not go amiss. The low transfer fee of £7 Million would fit right into the model of Arsenal’s transfer policy and Demba Ba’s wages although he will want an increase to what he is currently on at St James’ Park will not be too much for Arsenal. Ba’s physical play would also benefit an Arsenal side that can be fairly described as physically slender, Ba would be able to bully defenders and in turn create gaps for the Gunners’ more nimble footed players such as Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere. The partnerships that could be created should Ba join up with Wenger’s Arsenal would be difficult for defences to deal with.
Wenger himself has quickly moved to quash speculation of a move for Ba but you have to feel that Wenger will look at this opportunity and definitely weigh up his options and one would have to think the experienced Frenchman would rather spend £7 Million on a proven Premier League goal scorer rather than spending considerably more in the summer on another forward.
Demba Ba has a recognized knee problem which Stoke City were not willing to take a gamble upon in 2011 and although it has not been a problem up to now there is a very real risk that Demba Ba’s knee could go on his debut for Chelsea or Arsenal or another team completely and it is this risk that could well see Arsene Wenger pull out of the race for the Senegalese centre forward especially when you consider Arsenal’s recent troubles with player fitness.
Looking at Newcastle this season it is difficult to pin point just exactly where it has gone wrong in comparison to last season, of course the injuries to Yohan Cabaye the creative spark in their midfield and Hatem Ben Arfa have seen the service to Ba and Cisse falter somewhat and on the defensive side of things the injury layoff of Steven Taylor was bound to effect them and despite the impressive performances of Davide Santon this season on the right hand side Danny Simpson for me has let the Newcastle United side down too often through mistakes and lapses in concentration. Alan Pardew however appears to have got his man in the form of Mathieu Debuchy having agreed a fee with Lille in the last twenty four hours following a three month long pursuit ended in disappointment this past summer.
The failure for Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse to form a partnership where they are both scoring goals has infuriated Pardew and Newcastle supporters alike and I believe it is this that will make Alan Pardew’s decision to let Ba go that much easier. Cisse in my mind is the more naturally talented of the two Senegalese forwards the Magpies have at their disposal yet he has found himself forced out wide for the majority of this season with Ba occupying the central position, this lessens the impact Cisse can have on a game and certainly reduces the number of goal scoring opportunities Cisse will get. If Ba is to be sold then Alan Pardew can bring Cisse back into the middle and allow the creative players he has for example Obertan, Marveaux and Ben Arfa when he returns to occupy the wide areas and provide service for Cisse.
Newcastle have more than enough quality to stay up this season especially when you look at the standard of the defences in the teams below them despite them having amassed less points at this stage of the season than they had done in the ill fated 2008-2009 campaign when they suffered relegation from the Premier League. The return of Cabaye and Ben Arfa will see a turn in Newcastle’s luck and if Pardew can find a replacement for Ba who is capable of partnering Cisse then Newcastle may well find themselves in a far better position than when they had Ba at their disposal.
With Cisse excellent on the ball having fantastic close control and pace then you would think a big physical centre forward would be the perfect partner for him however we have all seen how that hasn’t worked with Ba with football seemingly moving away from the historically successful little and large combination up top, so where could Newcastle look to find a centre forward partner for Cisse? One name thrown into the ring could well be Siem de Jong with the Swiss born 23 year old Dutch International having impressed the continental wide audience with his performances for Ajax over the past three seasons in particular against Manchester City in this season’s UEFA Champions League.
The Ajax way of playing football is well and truly engrained in de Jong and his ability to pass the ball quickly and feed off a centre forward would suit Cisse and Newcastle significantly, de Jong has also shown capable shooting boots scoring thirteen goals for Ajax last year. This could well see Newcastle playing in a 4-2-3-1 system replicating that used by Di Matteo’s Chelsea at the start of this campaign could see Ben Arfa, de Jong and Marveaux all sitting behind Cisse interchanging passes and getting into positions to score. This style of football would significantly benefit Newcastle in Europe with a false nine playmaker sitting just behind the centre forward being the hallmark of a successful continental side in 2012.
Alternatively Newcastle if Pardew favours the more traditional 4-4-2 and wants a striking partnership to form then the in-form man of Europe is Parma’s Ishak Belfodil, a name well known to football manager enthusiasts has started the Italian season with great promise having scored five goals thus far this year, not exactly prolific but it would be someone to share the goal scoring burden with Cisse. Belfodil at 6ft 3 is certainly technically gifted for his size and not simply a target man which we have seen does not favour Papiss Cisse and with the Algerian international having spent much of his career in France there would be an instant opportunity for a partnership to be forged with both individuals speaking French.
This is all mute until the future of Demba Ba is decided, it could well transpire that Ba stays until the end of the season and signs a new deal at Newcastle which many on Tyneside would be overjoyed at however with Pardew’s side struggling this year it could well be that despite his thirteen league goals this season it is Demba Ba and all the uncertainty surrounding him that is holding Newcastle back.