The recent departure of Kevin Nolan from St James’ Park leaves Alan Pardew with plenty work ahead this summer if Newcastle are to be a potent force up front in next season’s Premier League. Nolan and Andy Carroll -despite the big hit man leaving in January- were the Magpies two top scorers last season, with 12 and 11 goals respectively, and a replacement for both players is a must.
Pardew has moved decisively in the transfer already, acquiring Yohan Cabaye from Lille and has followed it up with the capture of Demba Ba from West Ham in an undisclosed three-year deal. Ba proved an inspired signing by Avram Grant last year, with 7 goals in 12 appearances, though his contribution was not enough to prevent the club’s relegation. Here’s a look at how he fared for the Hammers last time round and a comparison with his new team mates, highlighting what Ba has to offer:
West Ham continually swapped around forwards last season, with as many as nine strikers appearing over their 38 games, though six -Ba included- appeared enough times for us to analyse their performance,
West Ham Forward average (Keane, Hines, Piquionne, Cole, Obinna)
Shots 1.52, Key Passes 0.97, Successful Dribbles 0.54, Aerial Duels won 38%, Fouled 0.8, Goals 3.2, Goals per Shot 11.21
The other five West Ham forwards failed to impress whenever they were given the chance- Piquionne played a part in 34 games but scored just 6 goals, more than the other four here. Obinna’s Shots (2.0) and Key Passes (1.8) per game were the most impressive of the five but with a total of 50 Shots all season, he found the net just 3 times.
Keane’s loan move from Spurs failed to spark the Hammers- he averaged just 1.1 Shots per game, managed just 0.3 Successful Dribbles per game and scored only 2 Goal in his 9 games. Hines was the most Fouled of the five (1.4 per game) but that was about his only stand-out stat; he failed to score a single goal all season. Their combined Goals per Shot is indicative of a team in trouble- the five scored once per 11.11 Shots.
Shots 2.9, Key Passes 0.92, Successful Dribbles 0.4, Aerial Duels won 43%, Fouled 1.8, Goals 7, Goals per Shot 4.97
Despite coming to West Ham in the January transfer window, Ba finished as the club’s top scorer for the season, with 7 goals in only 12 appearances for Grant’s side. His average Shots per game (2.9) was almost double that of the other five (1.52), a clear indication of his eye for goal and suitability to the British game.
In the air, he won almost the same % of Aerial Duels as Cole (43 to 45) and made similar Key Passes (0.92 to 0.86) but Cole managed just 1.6 Shots per game. Ba’s strong point isn’t taking on opponents -he made just 0.4 Successful Dribbles per game- but his danger to opponents was clearly noticed- he was Fouled against 1.8 times per match, compared to the lowly 0.8 by the other forwards.
How does that hold up against Newcastle’s main goal threat? Here’s a look at their four main attacker upon Andy Carroll’s departure to Liverpool
Newcastle attacker average (Ameobi, Lovenkrands, Best, Nolan)
Shots 1.75, Key Passes 0.64, Successful Dribbles 0.35, Aerial Duels won 43%, Fouled 1.1, Goals 7.5, Goals per Shot 5.12
It’s clear Ba will boost their goal threat- his 2.9 Shots in a poor West Ham side still outshone the 1.75 by Newcastle’s four main attacking players. Leon Best was the most impressive- 2.4 Shots per game, with 6 goals in 11 appearances and the best Aerial Duels of the four (52%) suggest more game time for him next season. He was the most Fouled too, 1.5 times per game.
Kevin Nolan had the best goals scored (12) and was the most clinical- with 48 shots, he scored 1 goal per 4 shots. His 0.87 Key Passes were also the best of the four; the player’s move to West Ham will definitely hurt Pardew.
The Newcastle boss will be looking for Ba to have the same impact as Andy Carroll, with the club having plenty money to replace the towering forward. How does he compare with Carrol, then?
Andy Carroll Newcastle stats:
Shots 3.1, Key Passes 1.16, Successful Dribbles 0.5, Aerial Duels won 62%, Fouled 1.6, Goals 11, Goals per Shot 5.52
The main area of improvement required from Ba will be in the air; Carroll won 19% more headers than Ba (62 to 43), though Ba clearly has the physical game to compete and won’t shirk a challenge. Both players’ Shots are very similar (3.1 to 2.9 in Carroll’s favour) but Ba’s stats indicate he can come close to replicating the goal threat offered by the former.
Critically, Ba proved a better finisher, though Carroll drew far more plaudits for his Newcastle performances last season that Ba’s under Avram Grant. Carroll grabbed 11 Goals in his 19 Newcastle games but with 3.1 Shots on average, he scored 1 Goal with every 5.52 Shots, compared to Ba’s 1 per 4.97 Shots.
The signs are looking good, then, and with more acquisitions to come, Pardew could re-shape Newcastle into a steady top-flight side if he continues to be this savvy in the transfer market.