Demba Ba's proposed move to Chelsea suits all parties



A few years ago, if you wanted to create mass hysteria in a particular city you simply had to summon Godzilla from the sea and point him inland. Safe in the knowledge that while the wanton destruction and frenzied panic was going to inconvenience people, it was at least a proportionate reaction. When an 80ft lizard tramples your cat, you're entitled to lose it somewhat.

In 2012 though, what with the advent (and subsequent combination) of social networking and Ed Chamberlain's mouth, collapsing skyscrapers and exploding polystyrene boulders can be wrought by simply telling people their star striker is “having talks” when they sit down for their Sunday dinner. Even if, as bombshells go, the Demba Ba/Chelsea story is so unsurprising that were you to detonate it you'd simply be treated to a large wooden flag with “boom!” written on it.

In the hours since we've had Rafa Benitez expertly deflect questions on the issue, and a suspicious lack of people available to answer the telephone at St James' Park. All of which suggests that there's considerably more than to this than simply the stench of speculation – although there's a long way to go before anything's concrete.

But despite the lack of solid evidence, and the predictability that will accompany it, Newcastle United and their supporters still have to come to terms with the fact that they are, in all likelihood, about to lose a man who's scored half of their Premier League goals this season. Half is a lot. I mean, imagine losing half of your favourite jumper, or your car, or your dog. They'd all be practically useless.

However, despite the maths – and Newcastle's increasingly precarious position in the league table – there is some cause for optimism.

First of all, the need for a direct replacement isn't as glaring as it would first seem. Papiss Cisse was averaging about 74 goals a game in the second half of last season when deployed as the focal point of a 4-3-3, but this season his sole contributions have come from a single flash of magic at Old Trafford, and a stray shot from Sammy Ameobi shaving his hind quarters and wrong-footing Ben Foster. He hasn't suddenly become a bad player of course, but in an effort to appease his countryman he's either been forced out wide or placed directly alongside him, where their desire to both make the same runs and look for the same passes has seen them labelled incompatible.

An exit for Ba would see the focus return to Cisse, but also means that any replacement for the outgoing striker would probably have to be someone who better fills the wide forward roles or offers something different when deployed through the middle. Both Loïc Rémy and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who Newcastle have been repeatedly linked with over the last few weeks, fit that particular bill.

Many have pointed to a lack of tactical consistency as part of the reason Alan Pardew hasn't been able to replicate last season's success. Without a key-player to awkwardly mould the rest of the team around, there's at least going to be a more natural look and feel to the side. Cisse's arrival saw the team win 7 out of 8 games last term, without Demba Ba contributing a single goal.

Then there's also a final curtain to be drawn on the move itself. Mike Ashely has worked tirelessly over the last two seasons to ensure Newcastle is no longer the walking Hollyoaks episode it once was, and bored local newspaper journalists have had to double their efforts to ensure that every day there are at least four pages of exclusive news from the club. In between games there's been very little to talk about up here, and a star striker having a marginal release fee has filled up reams upon reams of copy over the last few months. In fact it's difficult to see how Ba will complete his alleged move to Chelsea, given he's already signed for Liverpool, Arsenal, Fenerbache, Inter, and PSG numerous times over the last 18 months.

It's easy to underestimate, but having a cloud like that constantly hanging over both player and club can do the rest of the team no good at all. Imagine going into your job every day and constantly reading that Phil from HR was being touted around Europe. You'd all gossip on your lunch hour.

Demba Ba's 18-month stay at Newcastle, if indeed that's all it's to be, has seen a return of 29 goals from 58 matches. For any player, never mind a free transfer, that's an extraordinary record and he's every right to want to test himself at a higher level than the one presently afforded by his current employers. With the small exception of the strawberry syrup suppliers of the North East, it's one of the few deals in football that actually makes sense for everyone involved.