Newcastle United: Why They Must Keep Cheick Tiote and Demba Ba at All Costs
Cheick Tiote’s debatable red card against Sunderland in the Tyne-Wear derby had some fans conclude he is a liability and manager Alan Pardew urging him to improve his disciplinary record.
Having successfully hung onto both coveted star players in the summer, it is imperative the Magpies retain both players in January and recruit more players of their calibre.
Blue Chip Brigade
When he was Newcastle boss, Sir Bobby Robson had his "Blue Chip Brigade" of players: the ones he knew he could rely on to get the job done, the senior pros, the best of the best.
In his era, this was Alan Shearer and Nikos Dabizas, Shay Given and the late Gary Speed—players vital to the black-and-white cause.
To Alan Pardew, Demba Ba and Cheick Tiote are two such players, possessing the athleticism, ability and experience necessary to win important matches.
Remove either of these two or the equally vital Krul, Coloccini, Cabaye or Gutierrez, and the Newcastle side becomes instantly weaker.
Cheick, Cheick, Boom
Cheick Tiote is the best defensive midfielder in the Premier League.
Fierce in the tackle, possessing awesome body strength and as tough a competitor as you’ll find, there are many reasons why Chelsea, Man U and Arsenal were all linked with him in the summer for £20 million.
One Premier League red card in 55 games for a man the rest of the League are running scared of is a superb disciplinary record for a player who gets booked just for taking his aggressive nature onto the pitch.
The majority of Newcastle's big wins come with Tiote in the side, and teams know they have been in a game whenever they face the Ivorian warrior.
Newcastle’s Greatest Asset, Not Liability
Tiote's central midfield partnership alongside Yohan Cabaye is the best that Newcastle have had since David Batty and Robert Lee governed the United midfield in the 90s.
Even before the France international's arrival last summer, Tiote was instrumental in a Newcastle team that rose like a jack-in-the-box in their first season back in The Premier League to finish 12th.
Yet his best moment to date in a Newcastle shirt was scoring the last-gasp equalizer on the volley from 20 yards against Arsenal in the 4-4 draw that represented the best comeback in Premier League history.
For Tiote in a defensive sense, read Demba Ba in an attacking one. He is a great athlete with physically everything—pace, heading ability and raw power that makes him a constant goal threat.
The Senegalese, syrup-drinking striker rocketed Newcastle back into the big time with 15 goals in his first 16 games last season, creating the momentum that catapulted the team to a fifth-place finish in the league.
A more difficult start to this season sees Newcastle lying 11th in the table yet with Ba joint top Premier League scorer with six goals in eight games.
When the chips are down, Ba's goals are NUFC's "get out of jail free" card.
Happy Hour at the Ba
The Premier League is regarded to be the best league in the world, and the acid test for any foreign player is whether they can produce the goods on a wet, windy Tuesday night in Stoke.
Time will tell whether the likes of Eden Hazard can do it but Demba Ba lived up to the challenge as he smacked a hat-trick in at the Britannia to prove he and Newcastle were the real deal last season.
With strikes against top-four contenders Spurs and Everton already this season, he has cemented his reputation as one of the most potent strikers in Europe.
Three of Newcastle’s next four League games are at home against WBA, West Ham and Swansea, so expect it to be happy hour at the Ba at St James' Park.
January Sales: Cisse Surprise Mk II
With new Wonga burning a hole in Mike Ashley's pockets, Alan Pardew will be active in the January transfer window with back-up at centre-half as priority.
Pardew explained how the club's transfer policy operates to The Evening Chronicle:
What happens is Graham (Carr) goes out and gets a list of, say, eight players. Right now we are in the middle of the next window.
The process, so our fans are clear on it, is this: We have about seven names for a centre-half. He'll give me what he thinks are his best two options.
Don't rule out another Cisse-esque wonder signing as the club are more than prepared to gamble on the potential of a young star destined for the top:
There is no way we will sign an £8 million player who is 28...but if there's a 22-year-old at £11 million who has potential and I can convince him (Ashley) there is a £30 million player there, it could be different.