Why a return to scoring goals may not be far for Demba Ba

Demba Ba was on fire for Newcastle up until February in the Premier League. The Senegal international had netted sixteen times for the Magpies, looking to be the signing of the season after arriving on a free.

However, no goals in his last thirteen Premier League matches and a move out to the left side of a front three, have seen Ba eclipsed by new ‘signing of the season,’ Papiss Demba Cisse.

While his team mate is now firmly in the limelight, there have been signs of life recently that Demba Ba may also make a return to goal scoring.


The two halves of the season for Demba Ba

While Demba Ba was exceptional prior to the arrival of Papiss Demba Cisse, his form in the ten games after his Senegalese team mate showed up, took a dip.

Premier League
Games 1-24
Premier League
Games 25-34
Mins on pitch 1550 829
Goals 16 0
Shots at goal 64 23
Shots on target 48% 30%
Mins per shot 24 mins 36 mins
Blocked shots 22% 30%
Mins per touch of ball 2.4 mins 2.2 mins
Aerial duels won 36% 54%

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When Demba Ba was firing in the goals in his first 24 Premier League matches, he was taking a shot every 24 minutes and hitting the target with 48% of them.

Since his barren run, his minutes per shot at goal have slipped from 24 to 36, but also his accuracy has gone wayward. Ba is now only hitting the target with 31% of his strikes, rather than the 48% that were on-point before.

This is partly a result of location, Ba is now working his way in from the left, but also due to the fact that more of his shots are being blocked. The Senegalese international is having 31% of his shots blocked, as opposed to just 22% through the first twenty-four matches. This is the result of being matched up more with quicker opposition full-backs who are quicker in to the line of fire.

demba-ba-newcastle-1512

It's been a while since Demba Ba celebrated a goal.

Whereas Demba Ba is having more of his shots blocked, there is an area where he is doing better, aerial duel success.

Earlier in the season when he was playing through the middle, Ba was only winning 36% of his aerial encounters. Now playing wider, he is currently winning 54%. Again due to being matched up with opposition full-backs more often than centre-backs in recent matches.

So, if Demba Ba is playing wider, getting less shots at goal and hitting the target less frequently, how can he be showing signs of getting back on the goal trail?

The answer lies in his last three Premier League matches.

Demba Ba and his recent Newcastle United form

After a dip in Premier League matches 25-34, Demba Ba in his last three games has been showing signs of life again.

PL Games
1-24
PL Games
25-34
PL Games
35-37
Mins on pitch 1550 829 253
Goals 16 0 0
Shots on target 48% 30% 37%
Mins per shot 24 mins 36 mins 23 mins
Blocked shots 22% 30% 27%
Mins per touch of ball 2.4 mins 2.2 mins 2.2 mins
Aerial duels won 34% 56% 57%

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The Senegalese front man has taken eleven shots at goal in this recent three game span, an effort every 23 minutes – his best minutes per shot ratio this season.

What’s more, he is hitting the target with 37% of them, up 7% on matches 25-34 where he was struggling with both shots and accuarcy.

If we take a look at those matches in more detail with Stats Zone, we can see that maybe Demba Ba is finding his feet in Newcastle’s 4-3-3 formation, but also when they switch to 4-4-2.

Demba Ba against Wigan

Newcastle were down 4-0 before they knew it against Wigan at the DW Stadium. The Latics really made their extra man in midfield count as Alan Pardew’s team was swamped in the first half.

At half-time, the Magpies switched to a 4-4-2 to compensate and Demba Ba was moved in to a more central area with Papiss Demba Cisse up front.

As a result, if we look at Demba Ba in the first half, we can see how he receives the ball in the inside left channel from long passes by Tim Krul and the defenders. Ba is able to get one shot away as a result of a pull back from Yohan Cabaye on the left side of the area.

demba-ba-1st-half-wigan

Demba Ba in the first half against Wigan works the left-hand channels.

In the second half, as Alan Pardew switches to a 4-4-2, Demba Ba now receives less of the ball, but in more central areas. He now operates not as high up the pitch, as he still takes long passes from the back, but now has to play second fiddle to Papiss Demba Cisse.

Demba Ba doesn’t have a single shot, whilst Cisse takes three in an uneventful second half.

demba-ba-2nd-half-wigan

Demba Ba works in a more central area in a 4-4-2, but sees less of the ball in the second half.

Demba Ba against Chelsea

Against Chelsea we again see similar things happening, as Demba Ba again plays second fiddle to Papiss Demba Cisse.

The Senegalese international starts on the left of the front three and again receives long balls aimed at him downfield from Tim Krul’s goal kicks. With Chelsea controlling possession 63% to 37%, Ba doesn’t see many touches of the ball, but he works his way in from the left to a central position and gets four shots away at goal.

demba-ba-1st-half-chelsea

Demba Ba again sees more of the ball in the first half in a 4-3-3 and gets more shots away.

With a 1-0 lead in an open game but with Chelsea controlling possession, Alan Pardew again drops an extra man in to midfield and Demba Ba plays more central. As a result, Ba receives fewer touches and again not as high up the field, just like at Wigan. He becomes a target for long balls out to relieve the pressure and doesn’t get any shots away in the second half.

demba-ba-2nd-half-chelsea

Demba Ba plays more central in the second half and sees less of the ball and in deeper areas.

Demba Ba against Man City

In the match with Man City at the weekend, Demba Ba again starts out on the left side of the front three and is the target for long balls forward from the back.

He again works the left and central inside-left channels well, sees plenty of the ball and is able to get four shots away in the first half.

demba-ba-1st-half-man-city

Demba Ba sees plenty of the ball in a 4-3-3 formation in the first half and gets four shots away.

After a tight first half and both sides needing a result, Alan Pardew again went to a more orthodox 4-4-2 to get Jonas Gutierrez out to the left and Hatem Ben Arfa the right. He did this to try and stretch Man City’s two deeper lying central midfielders.

As in previous matches, Demba Ba receives fewer touches of the ball in the second half compared to the first, but in more central locations. However this time, he does get more balls played in to him further up the pitch on the edge of the box where he can influence play more. He also receives the ball twice in the penalty area from cut backs and gets two shots away. This could be a sign that he is coming to grips with working with Papiss Demba Cisse in a 4-4-2.

demba-ba-2nd-half-man-city

Demba Ba sees less of the ball centrally in a 4-4-2, but does receive passes in more threatening areas.

In Newcastle’s last three games, Demba Ba has improved his shots at goal, his shooting accuracy and also had a lower percentage of shots blocked. These are some good signs that he is becoming more comfortable now in Newcastle’s 4-3-3 system.

When the Magpies have used this system in the first half of their last three matches, Ba has been threatening with nine shots at goal.

When switching to a 4-4-2 he has looked less comfortable in the second half of the games with Chelsea and Wigan, having zero shots. However, there are some promising signs from the match with Man City in the second period that this may be on the turn.

Demba Ba has been on a long scoring drought that has lasted over thirteen Premier League matches and 1082 minutes. If his last few games are anything to go by, there is a good chance he will get back on the goal trail with a strike against Everton, maybe one that will propel Newcastle back in to the Champions League.

The Magpies looked set for anything but a trip to Europe’s top table at the start of the season, but Ba has been a big contributor in putting Newcastle in with a chance of qualification.

It would be very apt if Demba Ba broke his scoring drought with the goal that returned Newcastle to Europe’s elite.

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