Newcastle United finished fifth in the Premier League last season, but now sit as low as 14th.
Perhaps the most shocking statistic in relation to Newcastle's poor form is they sit just two points above the relegation zone, with 17 points compared to 18th placed Wigan's 15.
A supporter responding to an article on Alan Pardew on Here Is The City yesterday put forward the suggestion that Demba Ba is to blame for Newcastle's poor form. Before we give our opinion on the theory, here it is.
Yorkgeordie wrote: "There is one reason for the slump, Demba Ba. He has held Pardew to ransom, demanding to place the centre forward role down the middle under threat of leaving the club. The result is the whole shape of the team is wrong, with Cisse not knowing what his role is and ending up just getting in the way. Demba Ba cares only about scoring goals and therefore enhancing his reputation and therefore making a move to a top club. He rarely passes the ball and never passes to Cisse. If he goes in January I expect performances will improve, but don't think this is certain because Ba's transfer will cost a lot more than the transfer fee. Lets see how many clubs will be willing to take a chance on his dodgy knee."
Blaming Ba is certainly an interesting suggestion which raises two interesting issues, but Newcastle's woes cannot be pinned on their top scorer.
But Newcastle do have to solve the conundrum of partnering Ba and Cisse effectively, something they have so far been unable to crack.
When Cisse was bought in, it was because Newcastle knew they couldn't expect miracles from Ba forever, and so bringing in his international teammate seemed to be the perfect solution.
Cisse arrived like a man possessed, scoring 13 in 14 Premier League games, but the flip side was Ba scoring just once after he arrived. This season has seen a return to form for Ba who has scored 10 times, but Cisse has looked a shadow of the player who tore the Premier League apart last season, and the Newcastle fan is right to say the partnership between the two isn't working.
If Ba was sold would Cisse re-discover his touch and play with more freedom? It's hopeful, but it would be a gamble.
The second aspect where Ba has affected Newcastle negatively is the constant talk via his agent and surrounding his buyout clause. There was rumour it would expire in July, but talk is ongoing that he could leave on the cheap and it must be affecting him and infuriating his manager. It did not help when the striker was dropped to the bench for the game against Everton in September, that his agent immediately stated his client would look for a move if he was not a regular starter. The fan's view about Pardew being held to ransom, not wanting to upset his star man, especially in what has become a very difficult period for the club, is true to a degree.
Where the blame Ba theory falls down entirely is in that it ignores completely that Newcastle's team has been decimated by injuries, and that their summer transfer business was inadequate.
Key players to miss games via injury this season include Tim Krul, Fabricio Coloccini, Cheik Tiote, Danny Simpson and Steven Taylor - While Ryan Taylor and Yohan Cabaye have become long-term absentees. Cabaye is the man who makes things tick in midfield, the club's win ratio this season halves without him.
This summer Newcastle had a chance to build on their fifth place finish and invest big in new players to supplement the talent already at their disposal. The players brought in have yet to step up, and the injuries have exposed their dependence on the key names. Newcastle did do well to hang onto all of their star men, but more was needed and that's certainly now evident.
The Ba situation may not be perfect, and may come to a head in January, but to blame all the troubles on him - The player who has scored regularly for them this season is very unfair.
What's your opinion on Ba?
image: © machernucha