Firstly, is Demba Ba good enough to play for a title chasing side such as Chelsea? Can he prove himself in the Champions League and provide Chelsea with another trophy in Europe, leading the line with one of the Premier League’s best midfield’s behind him? And finally, will he be played as regularly as he is at Newcastle if Chelsea strengthen their forward options like it is suggested they do in summer?
Demba Ba has proven he is a Premier League goalscorer, as 36 goals in 66 games (as of 02/01/13) shows. It is a strike rate of better than a goal in every two games. He is also the fourth highest Premier League goalscorer over the last two seasons behind Van Persie, Rooney and Aguero, strikers at the very top teams and of the highest quality.
So judging by statistics alone, Ba is certainly amongst the best strikers in the Premier League. He avoided the dreaded second season syndrome which has taken the likes of Papiss Cisse, Peter Odenwingie and Andy Carroll after they had excellent debut seasons, proving he has consistency as well as quality and that he is not merely a one season wonder.
But what about his effect on the team he plays for currently, Newcastle? Well, out of the 26 goals Newcastle have scored so far this season, Ba has 13. Ba was their top scorer last season with 16, making it 29 in the one and a half seasons. That is a significant chunck of Newcastle’s goal tally, and certainly early on last season, was the reason they were in such a fantastic position to launch an assault on the top 4 by Christmas which is when the Senegalise partnership with Ba and Cisse kept the momentum going.
He had the likes of Cabaye and Ben Arfa assisting him and creating many chances for him, but it was Ba who was in the right place to put them away. He scored from inside the box, outside, from tight angles and by beating the keeper in one on one situations. He was the full ‘goalpoacher’ package. He did not have the technical ability to beat defences on his own, but he knew where to be to put the ball in the net, which is invaluable to a top half team, and even more so for a title chasing team.
What of his effectiveness in European competition? It is hard to judge because this season has been the only one to assess him in Europe, and it is the Europa league, not exactly the level of Europe players are judged on if they aspire to be the very best. Plus Alan Pardew has seen it necessary to rest him during European matches to keep him fit for Premier league action, thus Ba only has two appearances in Europe this season, scoring zero goals. However, he has shown he can score against the top Premier League sides such as Tottenham and Manchester United, both teams in Europe, so he can match up against the best defences in European football.
It is whether he can adapt to more pacy defenders and different footballing environments, different stadiums in other countries, and more hostile home supporters. His time in Germany will help, giving him an understanding of different ways of playing football, and different kinds of support, so his introduction to European football should be straightforward, especially if he moves in January and competes for Chelsea ahead of Torres in the Europa League. That will ease him into European competition.
Finally, it has to be questioned whether Ba is seen as a short term option for Chelsea, to boost their strikeforce until Abramovich can splash the cash to bring in somebody better, more expensive and with the pedigree Chelsea are looking for, like Falcao of Cavani. They have shown they are willing to bring in temporary reinforcements, as they have shown with Rafael Benitez and Roberto Di Matteo. Both are good managers, and both Champions League winners, with top level managerial pedigree, and Di Matteo was cast aside in order to bring in a temporary manager until they can get someone more exciting, young and successful i.e. Guardiola. They brought in Deco to do a job in center midfield, then replaced him one season later with Ramires.
If Ba has to face off competition from the likes of Torres, Lukaku and Falcao/Cavani, I cannot see him getting the game time he wants, or needs to satisfy him. Unless he does not mind being a benchwarmer, he may find it difficult to accept being the plan B, watching better players on the pitch ahead of him because he moved to a club which is able to purchase the best possible options.
It seems to me that Ba, with a £7.5 million release clause in his contracts, having a decent goal scoring record and being a proven Premier League player is the cheap, short term option for Chelsea who are lacking in strikers this season. In the summer, they will pursue the big money signings that have been mentioned many times in the press, leaving Ba in the reserves of one of the biggest teams in the world, rather than on the pitch for a good side like Newcastle.
Chelsea have the financial power to get almost any striker they want, and the willingness to pay over the odds to get said striker. Ba will do the job in this half of the season should the move go through that Chelsea have brought him to do, which is to cover Torres, or play alongside him, which is difficult to see considering that Benitez will have to drop one of Hazard, Oscar, Mata, or Lampard to accommodate Ba. So it will be either Ba, or the £50 million, Abramovich favourite Torres who will start. I can see who will get the nod.
Is this the right move for Ba. In the short term, yes. He will be played from January until march, he will poach the goals Chelsea needed Torres to get for them and he will have a successful end of this season. But as soon as Chelsea go in for Falcao or Cavani, Ba will find himself either looking for a move elsewhere, or sitting glumly on the bench wondering why a player of his talent is not on the pitch, banging in the goals like he did during the good old days at Newcastle.