Ba's departure ups the stakes for Pardew and struggling Newcastle
SOCCER ANGLES: Not many clubs improve by selling their top striker. Just ask Arsenal, writes MICHAEL WALKER
There are some people on Tyneside who think Newcastle United are better off without Demba Ba, their top scorer. They say that Ba, for all his goals, is not worth the disruption he and his wage demands have caused at St James’ Park. They say having got Ba on a free transfer from relegated West Ham 18 months ago, to get around £5 million (€6.14m) for him now from Chelsea is good business.
The total fee is £7.5 million (€9.2m), but Ba has negotiated £2.5 million for himself and his agents apparently. So maybe those who view his departure as welcome have a point. And maybe the concerns about Ba’s knee injury, which is always referred to as chronic, will be justified at Stamford Bridge.
Maybe, too, Ba’s public desire to jump to around £80,000 (€98,000) per week in wages unsettled others on less, and there can be little criticism of clubs seeking ways to control their final salary bill.
But, as manager Alan Pardew has said in the past weeks when it appeared Ba was going to leave, the big striker will have to be replaced. That will cost money, possibly quite a lot.
Newcastle did spend a lump on a striker, and quite recently. He is Papiss Cisse, who cost £9 million (€11 million) when arriving from Freiburg last January.
In that sense Newcastle have a ready-made replacement for Ba and Cisse immediately reminded people of his talent when scoring against Everton on Wednesday night after 90 seconds. This was just hours after it was confirmed Ba was in formal talks with Chelsea.
The timing was neat. But Cisse, Newcastle’s number nine, was not centre forward. He was partnered up front by Shola Ameobi, who spent more time up the middle than Cisse.
Still, with a bit more luck and composure, Newcastle could have scored three or four against Everton, whose defence is not as strong as their attack.
But Newcastle lost 2-1, their third consecutive loss following the 7-3 at Arsenal and 4-3 at Manchester United. It left the Magpies’ recent run at nine defeats in their last 11 Premier League games. The two other results were victories over Wigan and QPR.
Those wins were at St James’ Park. An alarming statistic for Newcastle as they head to Brighton today in the FA Cup is they have not won away from home all season. To win today they must score and having managed that three times at both Arsenal and Old Trafford, they should be capable of doing so at Brighton, ninth in the Championship.
Ba got two of those goals against Arsenal, in what proved to be his last match in black and white. His season’s tally in the league became 13 goals in 19 starts. Only Robin van Persie and Luis Suarez have scored more. Ba has scored his in a struggling team, which presumably is why the European champions want to sign him.
Ameobi, meanwhile, has been in Newcastle’s first-team squad for 12 years and is yet to reach double figures for a Premier League season.
Yet if there is outrage on Tyneside, it is of a quiet variety. Even in defeat on Wednesday there were no catcalls. The fans know the club is dealing with an injury crisis and the Ba situation became tiresome.