Can Cisse Give Newcastle More than Goals?
On one of the most dramatic nights in recent St James’ Park history, it was the familiar ‘Seven Nation Army’ baseline chorus that echoed out around the stands: ‘Paaaa-peace-Demba-Cisse.’
It was the Senegalese striker’s injury time winner that sent Newcastle United through to the quarter-finals of the Europa League. Cisse latched onto the end of a delicious Sylvain Marveaux delivery and headed the ball gloriously past Anzhi’s Vladimir Gabulov.
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As Cisse celebrated, Temuri Ketsbaia-style, with the other hero of the night, Steven Taylor, the referee blew the full time whistle, simultaneously giving the all-clear for the ground to erupt in celebration. While fans struggled to digest the double helping of jubilation they had just been served, the players politely showed their appreciation and then disappeared down the tunnel. Cisse was last to leave: not a single supporter dared to flee the ground until their number nine was well out of sight.
Now, not too dissimilar to the Magpies’ last Premier League game against Stoke City, it is without question that, had Cisse not scored these crucial late winners, his performances would have been laid bare for fan forums, social networks and everyday pub chat to scrutinize freely.
But he did take those chances. Yes, he most certainly did: but for how much longer can Cisse rely on grabbing a goal with the last kick of the game in order to save his skin? The striker has seven goals in 26 appearances in the Premier League this season, all coming from central positions; he averages two shots per game and has 72% pass completion. His stats are well behind strikers such as Luis Suarez, Robin Van Persie, Michu, Demba Ba, Romelu Lukaku, Ricky Lambert, Christian Benteke, Abel Taarabt and Dimitar Berbatov.
If we look at the two games against Stoke and Anzhi, his stats throughout the game lack any real quality. Against Tony Pulis’ side, Cisse had two shots on goal, his pass completion was 71%, the worst out of the whole team, and he failed to make any dribbles with the ball.
Against Guus Hiddink’s team, he had one shot on goal; six of his team-mates had more than that. His pass completion was up to 90%, although he never once dribbled with the ball and was offside five times.
In truth, Cisse contributes very little to the team; his touch seems to have diminished, meaning his hold-up game is suffering, he clearly struggles with staying onside and has almost no presence when challenging for an aerial battle. But the former Freiburg hit-man knows where the goal is, and that’s what matters, right?
Yes, he has not found the net as often as he would have liked this season, but the goals he has scored have been critical to Newcastle’s fortunes. His stoppage time strike against Stoke squashed any lingering fears of relegation; his strike against Anzhi has kept the Geordies’ European dream alive and his 35-yard howitzer against Southampton was another demonstration of the raw ability he no doubt possesses. He does have 23 goals in 47 starts; Magpie fans will struggle to argue with that.
Two weeks ago Pardew described his striker’s performance as “awful,” but acknowledged his composure in front of goal. The statement from the boss sums up Cisse’s last few months at the club. As long as Newcastle’s number nine keeps scoring, then the fans will not complain, but it seems a risky game that he is playing.
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