Demba Ba was the only thing keeping Newcastle United out of the relegation zone and now he’s gone. Alan Pardew, when speaking to The Journal, stated that finding a replacement for Ba would be a priority for the transfer window.
However, they have a ready-made replacement for him in Papiss Cisse; the two Senegalese strikers never performed well together, so Pardew has only had one striker playing to the best of his ability. Cisse and Ba were too similar to form an effective partnership, and Cisse was the one who suffered.
Ba’s commitment to the team was in doubt from the moment Cisse arrived on Tyneside. He was moved to the left to accommodate Cisse, which led to complaints and implications that Ba would move on at the end of last season.
This didn’t happen, of course, but in an attempt to pacify Ba into staying, Pardew gave him all the power. The release clause hung over the club’s head, but allowing Ba to pick and choose where he played just gave him a window in which to advertise himself to other clubs.
Newcastle spent around £9 million to bring Cisse to the club, and his first half-season justified the decision. Ba could’ve stayed on the left of a 4-3-3 this year and Cisse remained in the centre, continuing his free-scoring spree from the end of last season.
Instead, Pardew attempted to keep everyone happy and played safely within a 4-4-2 that required Ba and Cisse to play off each other in a manner that was unnatural to both players.
Ba got the goals, and Cisse got the blues.
Now that Ba is gone, Cisse is the obvious replacement. However, despite scoring early in the 2-1 home defeat to Everton, Cisse is faced with a crisis of confidence when he is suddenly expected to be the saviour of Newcastle.
This has led Pardew to his current position: without his most prolific striker and with no one left to step up. Shola Ameobi has been a great servant to Newcastle—particularly against Sunderland—but his time cannot go on forever, and Nile Ranger isn’t exactly going to hold the league hostage.
Pardew’s problems multiplied further when Ameobi was sent off against Brighton and will now face suspension. The succession of injuries and suspensions have crippled the team, but it’s Mike Ashley’s reluctance to spend that is the root cause.
The loss of Ba creates a vacuum in the Newcastle attack, regardless of whether Cisse gets his form back. Cisse will be moved back to the centre and able to play his natural game, but his recent tendency to stray offside will have to be tempered.
Possible replacements for Ba have already been rumoured, with Pardew once again looking to Ligue 1 for inspiration. Loic Remy seems the most likely of the names being mentioned, with The Daily Mirror reporting that he is in “advanced talks” with Newcastle and the price is likely to be in the region of £10 million.
It was also rumoured that QPR were in the running for the Marseille forward’s services, via The Daily Mail. However, ESPN.com reported that Remy had turned down an offer from the London club, which leaves Newcastle as the favourites to sign him.
Remy’s versatility will be of great use to Pardew, as he can operate out wide or in a central striking role. This allows Cisse to rediscover his scoring touch, as well as giving the Newcastle attack a more dynamic look.
When Ba left, it was never going to be a matter of replacing him. Depth is the key to Premier League survival, which is now Newcastle’s priority. Cisse will immediately fill Ba’s role, which he has already demonstrated he can do.
Acquiring Remy immediately makes Newcastle a more potent attacking force, and the potential for goals is better than when Ba and Cisse started together. The midfield has struggled without Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa, and Remy would go some way to restoring that creative element.
Given the recent inactivity, any signings in January would make fans happy, and the arrival of Mathieu Debuchy has them know that Ashley is at least slightly concerned with keeping the club in the Premier League.
More than anything right now, Newcastle need hope. Remy would give them that—along with the return of the Cisse who arrived last January, obviously.