On Monday evening just gone, Everton and Newcastle United played out a terrific 2-2 draw at Goodison Park. It was a game played at a great pace with high intensity and passion throughout; Everton probably felt aggrieved to have only drawn and Newcastle most likely delighted with a share of the spoils. The Toffees had one goal chalked off for offside when Marouane Fellaini finished well and was adjudged to have strayed (he hadn’t) and Victor Anichebe was denied a goal when his header was deemed by the officials to have not crossed the line (it did).
One more reason why Everton failed to win was simply down to one man – Demba Ba. The Senegalese striker scored both Newcastle goals to earn his side a hard-fought point and both were excellent finishes – finding space in key areas and punishing Everton to maximum effect.
Ba, however, didn’t start the game on Monday – manager Alan Pardew instead opting for a 4-5-1 system with Papiss Cisse leading the line. Following the game, Ba went on record to say that he doesn’t understand the management policy at the club and was unhappy to start on the bench against Everton. Prior to Monday’s game, he has actually started all three Premier League matches this season but has been deployed on the left wing in the aforementioned 4-5-1 formation. Now, as much as Alan Pardew has done a fine job on Tyneside and as decent a man he comes across, one might question his policy of utilising a once-prolific striker on the left wing.
After signing Papiss Cisse in January, Ba’s previously phenomenal goal-rate in that particular season dropped off considerably. In fact, after Cisse had scored on his debut against Aston Villa in February, Ba didn’t score again for the rest of the season. Was it that his confidence dropped off when his countryman’s shot up? Or was it simply due to the fact that Newcastle’s system changed and he failed to adapt? I’m inclined to lean towards the latter.
It’s safe to say that, down on Tyneside, they love a good striker. Down the years they’ve had messrs Shearer, Keegan and Milburn to name but a few. There’s no doubt that Cisse and Ba have the potential to become well loved by the Newcastle faithful. But if Ba fails to make his mark this season and continues to be deployed in a system he’s unhappy with, then that could possibly lead to him seeking his football elsewhere. His agent, Alex Gontran, speaking after the game on Monday, stated “If he continues to be a substitute all season, we’ll look at other solutions.”(Source: The Independent)
It would be a shame to see a striker of his mould fail to fulfil his potential at a fine club such as Newcastle, a club which has given him a platform to showcase his credentials. Could his unhappiness with Newcastle’s current system also be having an effect on his strike partner Cisse? It’s no coincidence that Cisse has failed to find the net this season whilst Pardew tries out different playing styles and methods.
Anyway, who am I to judge Alan Pardew’s methods? The man is still doing a fine job at the club and if he can keep the core of the squad together, he can be quietly confident of at least a top six finish this season. Their start to this campaign has been relatively stop-start – it was always going to be tough to follow up on their form towards the end of the 2011-12 season, particularly after the summer break.
His position with Ba is a tricky one – he can’t keep all players happy and if he has to sacrifice him for the good of the team, or even change his position, so be it. Results speak volumes and if they come, Ba will be proven wrong. My argument is this: what’s wrong with a flat 4-4-2 and two deadly strikers (and fellow countrymen) playing alongside each other up top and in total harmony? A simple system whereby the strikers can complement each other and are better positioned, with added support, to score a hatful of goals each.
It could be an interesting few months on Tyneside. What I do know is that it would be great to see more of the Demba Ba we saw against Everton on Monday and less of the Demba Ba we saw towards the end of last season.
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