Keeping Cisse Onside
Papiss Demba Cisse, the Newcastle United number nine, has taken plenty of stick this season from the terraces and amongst Toon fans in general for his tendency to be caught offside.
I personally don’t see this as much of a ‘flaw’ in his game and don’t see him being caught offside as always his fault. I roll my eyes whenever I hear people behind me in the stands bemoaning Cisse’s indiscipline.
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Firstly, how does he compare to other strikers in the Premier league? Cisse has been flagged for offside 32 times this season or 1.1 offsides per game. This is less than golden boot contender Robin Van Persie who has been flagged 33 times, less than Romelu Lukaku who has 33 offisdes, less than Christian Benteke who has 42 offside offences at a league high of 1.6 per game, less than Nikica Jelavic who leads the league with 43 offsides. Cisse has only committed two more offside offences than league top scorer Luis Suarez. So while Cisse has been caught offside a fair amount this season, he is not the league’s worst offender and is pretty much on a par with the Premiership’s top two strikers this year.
Secondly, what kind of a striker is Cisse? Unlike his former strike partner Demba Ba, Cisse’s strengths aren’t in holding the ball up and playing with his back to goal. Like Pippo Inzaghi, who Alex Ferguson described as being ‘born offside’; Cisse thrives when playing off the shoulder of the last man; his movement and eye for space between and behind defenders are his top attributes. When you’re the type of player who plays right on the edge, you are going to be called for offside quite often, just like other top strikers.
So why does Papiss seem to stray offside more so this year and seem less effective? I think much of this is down to the absence of our top creators from our starting line-up this season. Cisse likes quick balls played through the channels but without Cabaye and Ben Arfa we have lacked players with the ability to play and even see these types of passes.
Think back to the superb brace Cisse grabbed away to Swansea, Cabaye played two beautiful slide rule passes between defenders for Cisse to run onto and apply great finishes. Or what about when Cabaye seemingly played a pass to nowhere behind the defence at home to Stoke last year? Cabaye and Cisse were probably the only two people inside St James who saw that ball, which lead to another cool finish by the Senegalese striker.
How about Cisse peeling off at the back post against Liverpool, only to be found by an inch perfect cross from Ben Arfa which saw him head us into the lead?
Without Cabaye and Ben Arfa, the Toon lack the players with the ability to see these passes quickly enough or the ability to play them fast enough. Players like Jonas, Tiote and Santon (when he comes forward) have been relied upon much more heavily this year for a creative spark, but the truth is they can’t play the type of passes Cisse wants and needs, either because they can’t see them or play the ball quickly enough before he is flagged offside.
Sylvain Marveaux is probably our only other naturally creative player with an eye for a pass, but he hasn’t seen that much game time until recently. The winner against Stoke just a few weeks ago was a good example of Cisse finding a nice pocket of space behind Ryan Shawcross, with Marc Wilson playing him onside, Marveaux was able to play a quick and accurate pass leading to the winner.
Yes Papiss needs to show more discipline and awareness at times because some offsides are needless but some fans need to cut him some slack and appreciate what his strengths are and who is providing the supply before they criticise him. Hopefully with Cabaye fit again and more game time for Marveaux, Cisse can fire us to a top ten finish and Europa League glory.
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