Monday, 7 January 2013

There can only be one

January is a funny time in modern football. It's an opportunity for football managers, directors of flying footballs and the chiefiest of executives to scour the globe for bargains. Some will wait until the last day of the window to sign a couple of players much in the same way Daniel Levy has successfully done. Others will overlook the sense used by Levy and others to sanction the signing of the next Andy Carroll. It was truly "a hell of a deal" indeed. January is also a time where losing key players is to be avoided. At all costs? Last January, one Demba arrived to support another and this January one Demba leaves another.

Demba Ba. Newcastle's top goalscorer has recently departed for Chelsea and his debut was garnished with goals. The wee club he left behind hasn't been faring as well as it should in domestic competitions with a lowly league standing and a Brighton FA Cup repeat prescription. Losing Ba looks like a disaster but Newcastle can be philosophical about his eighteen months on Tyneside. Team Pardew, Ashley, and Carr (henceforth known as Team PAC) procured a very good player on a free transfer from West Ham. The contract terms were favourable for the club with a relatively low basic that was topped up by appearances. The risk? Demba's knees were as dodgy as a stock set of Fifa executives. He was born in France so accusations of Ba being born in ten years earlier in a remote Senegalese village can rest for now. The catch? A release clause of £7.5 million with around a third going to Monsieur Demba Ba himself. The output? 29 goals in 54 appearances.

Papiss Demba Cissé. One half of Alan Pardew's Demba dilemma. Cissé arrived last January from Freiburg and 13 goals in 14 league games confidently said "natural finisher" in soothing tones. Demba Ba had scored 15 league goals before Cissé's arrival but Ba was moved to the left, only adding a solitary league goal to his early haul. This season, the trick was reversed. Ba reverted to his favoured central position scoring plenty and where did the other Demba end up? On the left. The dreaded left that seemed to be kryptonite to goalscoring Senegalese Superman. Cissé's return of three league goals in 18 matches served as a compelling testimony to such ills, joining Niall Ferguson in his aversion to the left.

"If only a new contract was as simple as a handshake."
Pardew found it tough to accommodate both over the past 12 months and it was no surprise that in Ba's absence, Cissé scored in the home defeat to Everton. Both strikers know how to score but occupy the same space. Perhaps Pardew should have benched one of his Dembas but now that decision has been made for him. Newcastle's manager can reflect on his Demba conundrum and try to find more flexible forwards or at least ones who can combine effectively with Papiss Cissé. Demba Ba's departure could be an initial setback for future forward steps in Newcastle's development. Newcastle have lost some big names in Pardew's time at the club but Team PAC always found much sought answers.

Cissé adapted easily to English and his Bundesliga tally of 37 goals in 65 matches is further evidence of a striker who guarantees goals...when played as a striker. Demba Ba is a goalscorer too but for a year it was six months of one goalscoring Demba and six months of another. When one went on a scoring streak, the other looked forlorn on the left.This will probably be best for Newcastle as Pardew often played both at the same time and it wasn't working out. 

If Newcastle can move on from the departures of Enrique, Carroll, Nolan and Barton then finding balance in the absence of one Demba shouldn't be too hard. It would have been better to have one on the pitch and one on the bench in the event of a malfunctioning Demba but Newcastle will have to move on with one and perhaps as one. Don't be surprised if it all works out, the last Demba standing going on another scoring streak and Pardew being hailed for a revival. It was a bit like the first two Highlander films, the others don't count without Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez, in that there can only be one and Fernando Torres would do well to sharpen his sword.


  1. Fantastic article. An accurate description of the current situation on Tyneside. Hopefully the team can move on from the departure of Demba no.1 and Demba no.2 can now flourish.

    Howay the Lads!

    1. Thanks for commenting and I think Newcastle's results will improve. A true one city club with passionate, large and loyal fans! Since beating West Brom in late October, Newcastle record in all competitions is worrying:

      Played 16 Won 2 Drawn 3 Lost 11

      It's always interesting to see how a manager reacts to a poor run of form and this period will certainly test Alan Pardew's managerial abilities.

  2. Does anyone else think Cisse looks a little bit like a snake from the jungle book?!

  3. Nice piece mate, good to see a blog that intelligently looks at different leagues, clubs and players. It must be hard resisting the urge to write about Liverpool all the time!

  4. Just a note to Newcastle fans if you've managed to make it past the "wee club" part. It was intended to knowingly mock Ferguson's most gracious comments in reaction to Pardew's thoughts on Ferguson's behaviour.