Can Newcastle cope without Ba and Cisse? – An alternative eleven.

Posted on September 3rd, 2012 | 24 Comments |

A potential Newcastle United 11 without Ba and Cisse.
A potential Newcastle United 11 without Ba and Cisse.
Following the departures of Leon Best and Peter Lovenkrands Newcastle United have only three recognised strikers in our 12/13 squad – fact.

A much documented lack of transfer activity has left countless Geordies despondent with the size of our squad entering a hectic season, yearning for the signature of a new striker. The biggest worry is that whilst both Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse are competing in the African Cup of Nations (or potentially injured) we will be left unable to cope without arguably our two most recognised strikers, where a lack of goals could become a defining factor in our Premier League campaign. It’s worth noting that Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse contributed a huge 53% of our goals total in the Premier League last year (29 of 55), highlighting their importance.

So, should we of signed another striker? Not necessarily. Can we cope without Ba and Cisse? I believe so. A conventional 4-4-2 formation is unachievable should only one recognised striker in Shola Ameobi be available, but alternatives can be utilised to apt effect. Of 38 Premier League fixtures last season a 4-4-2 formation was utilised 26 times (68.4%). What about our other fixtures? We were often tagged as operating in a 4-5-1, 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation with 1 conventional striker, 3 advanced mid-fielders and 2 central defensive mid-fielders in behind operating predominately defensively. Why could this not be used in the few games where both Cisse and Ba would not be available? Another alternative would be to play a 4-4-1-1 formation (often favoured by Alan Pardew’s predecessor Chris Hughton) with Ben Arfa operating in what is essentially a free role behind Shola Ameobi.

I personally cannot see why the Newcastle United eleven (shown in the image) could not compete near to the astonishing heights that we did last season, despite the potential lack of goals. Shola Ameobi – although with his critics – is undoubtedly a brilliant hold-up forward (although a little inconsistent) who I’m under no illusion could bring a very strong advanced midfield 3 into the game effectively, whilst still posing an aerial threat (averaging 1.6 aerial duels won per game during the 11/12 Premier League season, 4th highest of any Newcastle player). Shola Ameobi’s strength in bringing others into the game (particularly in the final third) is unmistakable when you consider he averaged 0.19 assists per game last season, more than any other Newcastle forward – even more impressive when conceding that he played the full 90 minutes in less than 1/3rd of his appearances last season.

One factor that should be considered however is Shola Ameobi’s injury record. He remained sidelined for a large proportion of last season, managing only 8 starts and 19 sub appearances. He did not feature in 29% of Newcastle’s Premier League fixtures last season. This leaves us with the dangerous possibility of having 0 recognised strikers available during January. The only alternatives during such a huge crisis would be for Ben Arfa or Cabaye to operate in an unfamiliar striker role, or bring in the young and inexperienced Adam Campbell or Sammy Ameobi.

It is also worth noting the strength in depth (excluding the striker role) we have when operating the above formation. The likes of Jonas Gutierrez (LB, LW, CM), Dan Gosling (CM, CAM), Gael Bigirimana (CM), Gabriel Obertan (RW), Sammy Ameobi (LW, ST), Adam Campbell (ST, RW), Mehdi Abeid (CM, CAM), Haris Vuckic (CAM), and Romain Amalfitano (CM, LW, RW) provide fantastic cover in the midfield, which can be easily adapted depending on the strengths and weaknesses of opposition.

In conclusion, yes I believe we can cope. We may be forced into operating in a certain style to accommodate for their absences but this is by no means a catastrophic disadvantage. The signature of a fourth senior striker may have placed us in a more comfortable position going into the 12/13 campaign, but is by no means the disaster some have made it out to be. Place a little faith in Pardew, please. Long gone are the days of undermining our own through unrealistic ambitions.

Comments welcome.


NUFCBlog Author: NewcastleStats @NewcastleStats Statistical analysis of Newcastle United Football Club. News, trivia, debate and more. NewcastleStats has written 1 articles on this blog.

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24 Responses

  1. Ben arfa did the job for me in fifa as a striker, if he does the job for me no doubt he can do it in real life :),but really Newcastle have shot themselves and are now showing it a right back was needed and now taylor and simspon are stuffed.

  2. Shola simply does not score goals-apart from against the maccums-lol, Ben arfa is not a striker and does not score many goals-our mid field does not look like its going to score many goals-our reserve strikers do not look like they can score many goals for the first team.We are going to struggle to get any supply to our front men/man/boys as the only decent crossers of the ball we have are injured.You can put up as many formations as you wish but if we don`t score goals-we don`t win games-fact. The clubs lack of ambition and greediness in the window is haunting us already and we`v hardly started the season, stupid-stupid-stupid!!!!!!

  3. All good points Stats. Whenever I look at an NUFC starting line up I ask myself “where is the creativity coming from ?”

    It doesnt matter if Shola plays with one arm behind his back and a patch over one eye, if he gets the service he’ll score :)

    Pardwho insists on playing this stupid 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 with the two up front because he thinks we’ve got two strikers who’ll punish defences just by staring at them, but they need the service :(

    That’s three league games into the season and each one has started with an appalling first half because Pardwho insists on playing two central strikers with huge gaps between them and the rest of the players and then takes 45 minutes to sort out his cock up.

    That’s why the formation has to change and quickly. No more deep lying Cabaye and HBA is NOT A FECKING WINGER !

  4. some might say, shola doesn’t score enough goals, but we wouldn’t have any other alternative.
    the only thing we could do, is play shola and ben arfa, up top, or shola as a target man, with ben arfa, slightly withdrawn behind him.

    we could also go as a three, with marveaux joining the attack.
    scraping the barrel, could we not extend the olive branch, to “johnny too bad”, nile ranger, we might have no choice.
    you never know he may graft his hyrdaulics off, to make a mends.

    either way, we’ll just have to get on with it, as you simply cannot be beholding to our illustrious leader, to help us out.

  5. watching west ham on saturday, i’ve got to say i miss, “captain tugboat”, kevin nolan, and he’s lost some weight also.
    there’s nobody better, at arriving late in the box, he’s worth twelve goals a season.

  6. With everyone available I would try this formation.


    Perch Taylor Colochini

    Anita Tiote
    Santon Marveaux
    Ben-Arfa Cabeye


    Our centre halfs get caught out far too often covering the fullbacks so just go with three centre half and tell them to stay put!! Anita and Tiote would offer protection in front of them as they can both tackle whilst allowing Anita to quickly link to the attacking players as he passes FORWARD!! very quickly santon and Marveaux could attack or defend as required and with Ben-Arfa, Cabeye and cisse consistently in a more forward position we shouldn’t get caught with no support up front as is often the case.

    Ba and Cisse cannot play up front together as we just get over-ran in midfield. So this formation leaves you options on the bench.

    Please forward to mr Pardew!!

  7. The prevoius Formation should have lokked like this


  8. The question should be “Can we cope “with” both Cisse and Ba” ?
    Or can we cope in spite of Pardew.
    Appears this guy could’nt manage a good bowel movement, never mind an EPL side.
    But now we have reached the decission that eighth place is a good goal and we are not worried about a quick exit from the whatchamacallit cup, everythings ok, well init ?

  9. chuck says:

    “Appears this guy could’nt manage a good bowel movement, never mind an EPL side”

    Not bad for a Monday morning :)

  10. Big Al says:
    September 3, 2012 at 9:57 am

    “Shola simply does not score goals-apart from against the maccums-lol, Ben arfa is not a striker and does not score many goals”

    Going by his career stats, Shola scores a goal every 270 minutes on average, or once every three games if you don’t count injury time. Actually, that really isn’t that bad at all.

    So there is a misperception about how many goals he actually does score, due largely to the fact he usually a substitiute who only plays a few minutes each game. However, people tend just look at how many appearences he has made, how many goals he has scored and work it out that way, which is incorrect.

    So poor Shola has been crucified by lazy maths!

    Also as the writer of this piece suggests, his skills in holding up the ball helps to bring others into the game too.

    Benny did play as a centre forward at Lyon, and to say he doesn’t score many goals is also to overlook the fact that he has also been used as a substutute for many of his appearences in the past. If you go by a minutes per goal scored ratio, he’s scored a goal every 3.6 games, mostly from the wing.

  11. What would we have on the bench to change a game? Or if Shola were injured: likely shoe-horning Vuckic into a center forward slot. Then there’s AP’s preference for 2-forward formations. Then there are the questions of small injuries, suspensions and how many EL fixtures we have scheduled during the African Cup. There are a lot of problems here that can’t be glossed over by stating that yes, we do have some adequate backups.

    We need to hope the young players are able to contribute NOW and that we can somehow slip through the group stage of the EL playing a weak squad. Hopes of not having too any injuries are already shot.

  12. Trepidation around Shola as striker, but I agree we can cope. I’d fell better if we had a more appropriate CAM than Cabaye – I firmly believe he is miscast as an attacking midfielder – I see him more as a deep-lying playmaker (think a poor man’s Andrea Pirlo).

    We were second to last in the PL last season for possession in the opponent’s third (ahead of only Swansea). The fact that we were fifth for goals goes to the amazing efficiency of Ba and Cisse. If they are not around, or not playing at their best (such as right now), the squad struggles (such as right now).

    I wonder if Benny could be that guy in the middle, with Obertan and Marveax on the wings (yes, I said Obertan).

    Anita Colo S. Taylor Santon
    Cabaye Tiote
    Obertan HBA Marveaux

    Cabaye can still come forward here, and direct attacks from the middle, freeing up HBA to work his magic. Obertan can give us width, Santon and Anita will be strong coming forward, even allowing Marveaux to slip inside a bit more.

  13. Ok workyticket-I got it wrong-Sholas a wonderful striker and we should play him all the time!!! I have never`crucified`Shola like a lot of people-he`s a cracking lad but here`s 1 for you-do you reckon he`ll ever score 20 goals a season? I reckon he`s got as much chance as Ranger-no blooming chance,as for Ben arfa-I played up front the same as him-sadly i was like a duck out of water also. you can throw statistics around until the cows come home-their not good enough up front for a top 5 team challenging for domestic and European honours-I hope they prove me wrong-they wont though. READ what is wrote mate-I`m a massive Ben arfa fan in his own position-Sholas a smashing bloke, but he`s not good enough and cant lead the line-is slow and 90% of the time heads the ball like his heads shaped like a 50pence peace-prove me wrong? what`s his 100m sprint time? about 20mins lol…1man 1job as the saying goes-we need the appropriate players in the appropriate positions-not slagging anybody off or crucifying anybody.

  14. In defense of Shola and Workey.
    Unlike Ba, Shola can play the second striker role in a 4-4-2, can link up well with either Ba or Cisse, plus i’ve seen him lay on some pretty good passes.
    Not only, he’s pretty good at holding the ball.

    Being i missed the Villa game, how did the kid Bigi play, supposed to be a Tiote clone ?

    Of course most of us expected the Villa of old, with the jock Alec McLeish in charge and we did have a jock, “Paul Lambert”, running the side.
    A well travelled player, who obviously learned from his varied career.
    One of the handfull of youngish managers, which include Martinez, Rodgers and Clarke, (no not the explorers) that new breed of home grown manager’s who are changing the way the PL game is played.
    And we are lumbered with this political donkey, willing to blame anyone, for his lack of any tactical sense.
    Surely our coaches can get through to him, but when i talk to non NUFC fans, their first reaction is to call him (AP)arrogant.
    We know how ego driven Ashley is, which means we have to be threatened by relegation, before he will dump him and for who, another sycophant ?
    Ah! whadda ya gonna do, fugedaboudit!

  15. If both Ba and Cisse are off to play for Senegal, thats probably as good a lineup as we can field.
    Looks like we are not about to give up on Obertan, but i would like to see both Abeid and Ferguson, given some minutes and believe they have a future at the club.
    Whats the story with Amalfitano, was he bought as a player ready to step in right away ? and in what role ?
    If we dont get eliminated from the whatchamacallit cup we are going to have to use every swinging d**k in the squad or loose people through injury.
    Oh ! bye the way, saw where Clyne was sold by Palace for £2m. where were we ?
    Yep another fiasco with Debuchy but it’s not a RB we need, its a CD, does Ashley think a thirty year od Colo.
    and an injury prone Taylor can play every week, oh what was i thinking we got the donkey Williamson to fill in,
    Sorry folks hard to be optimistic, right now, what the Feck was Ashley thinking?

  16. Shola will not work well with Marv and Benny. While he is good at holding up and slaying Mackems, his game is not very much about passing and movement. Having said that, I can’t see Cambell edging out Shola for starting 11 either…

    Perhaps it will be HBA playing up front in a Messi role?

  17. By the way, where is Jonas? Marve and Santon on left side? Hope we don’t need to play against any teams with a decent right winger…

  18. Problem is Shola is always injured. I wont be suprised if he is injured again in January either.