Top strikers are hard to come by. For every Luis Suarez there is a Mauro Boselli, for every Robin van Persie a Nicklas Bendtner, every Demba Ba a Xisco.
The three names mentioned, along with Messrs Rooney, Torres, Aguero and Tevez, are all top Premier League strikers. They’ve proven that with countless goals and breathtaking displays, and their influence is reflected in their astronomical price tags.
For Newcastle United, the loss of one of those mentioned—Demba Ba—has left them lacking the cutting edge they once had. Papiss Cisse was expected to thrive in the shoes left unoccupied by the new Chelsea star but has faltered since being given the centre forward role at St James’ Park.
When Cisse joined Newcastle from SC Freiburg in January 2012 and set the world on fire with a series of stunning goals and eye-catching performances, Magpies fans were salivating at the thought of goals raining in on a weekly basis with Cisse paired with Ba.
Eighteen months on and with Cisse now leading the Newcastle line alone, we are forced to compare him with what we know. And on Tyneside, we know a top striker when we see one. Alan Shearer will forever be the benchmark for any striker who pulls on a black and white shirt, but let’s compare Cisse to some of his current peers.
After his initial amazing form after coming from Germany, we know Cisse has the ability. His goal against Chelsea—where the ball seemed to defy gravity on its way past Petr Cech—showed his quality and what he can do when he is full of confidence.
But ever since the 2012/13 season began, we haven’t seen the same player. The strike against Southampton two weeks ago was a reminder that the extraordinary goals are still firmly in the locker; they’ve just been held back by a missing piece to the Cisse jigsaw.
And that missing piece is exactly what holds Cisse marginally below the Premier League’s top strikers.
Luis Suarez, for example, combines the spectacular, ridiculous and sensational on a weekly basis, almost single-handedly inspiring Liverpool to heavy wins. He has everything in the locker and is the man the ball goes to when something needs to happen at Anfield.
Cisse doesn’t have that impact, that feeling of fear on his opponents like Suarez does. There is no reason Cisse can’t be a similar focal point for Newcastle as the Uruguayan is for Liverpool; he just needs the spark back.
We’ve seen him do everything at Newcastle. He’s scored tap-ins, long-range stunners, headers and flukes. What he lacks is the conversion of a top striker, averaging under a goal every four games this season.
There’s no hiding it hasn’t been good enough from Cisse, who scored 13 goals in 15 games in the first six months of his Newcastle career and has never hit those heights since.
His all-round game is good. As mentioned, he can score all kinds of goals for his side—he just needs to do it regularly. He has good pace, a decent physical presence and two good feet, but his movement needs work.
The runs he makes are good, but the timing is ever so slightly off, resulting in frustrating offside calls time after time. When Yohan Cabaye or Moussa Sissoko threads a perfect pass through and Cisse goes through on goal only to be halted by the offside flag, nothing is more annoying for a fan than having a striker who can beat defenders but not assistant referees.
His composure needs work, too, as he stutters and gives the goalkeeper too much of a chance when given time to think about what he’s doing. Cisse is an instinctive player who does what comes naturally when within sight of goal.
Most of his goals have been snapshots that fly past the keeper before he can have a chance to think about what he’s doing. But when clean through in on a one-on-one situation, the mind games come into play and more often than not, the goalkeeper comes out on top.
Staying with the Suarez comparison, look at the Uruguayan’s first goal against Wigan last weekend. Clean through against Ali Al-Habsi (a formidable opponent, I might add), Suarez made his opponent commit himself before slotting it into the virtually empty net.
It’s this quality that keeps Cisse marginally below the top level of striker. Van Persie, Rooney, Ba and the others mentioned at the start of this piece are that slight step above the Newcastle No. 9.
Cisse is a good striker. But that’s it—just good. He can be one of the top strikers in the Premier League in seasons to come, but for now he’s just that bit lesser than his adversaries.