Papiss Cisse’s impressive 9 goals in his first 8 Premier League games has brought comparisons with Newcastle strikers of old, most notably Andy Cole, but how does his goal return compare to that of other top Newcastle goalscorers from their first 8 league games for the club?
Upon joining Newcastle from Freiburg in the January transfer window, for a fee believed to be in the region of 8-10 million pounds, Papiss Cisse’s goalscoring impact has been instant. It is an oft-trotted out line by managers and pundits that ‘players need time to adapt to their new club’s style of play’, often when defending the latest 35 or 50 million pound misfiring striker, but thankfully this wasn’t the case with Cisse.
Having scored 87 goals in 203 games prior to joining Newcastle, Papiss Cisse has continued his fine goalscoring record and wasted little time in demonstrating what it was that convinced the club he was worth pursuing and worth investing in.
In fact, the Senegalese International took only 57 minutes to open his Premier League account as he appeared off the substitutes’ bench to score a stunning match-winner in Newcastle’s 2-1 victory over Aston Villa in February. 7 games later, Cisse has maintained his remarkable goals-per-minutes strike rate which currently stands at a goal every 66 minutes.
Following Newcastle’s 2-0 victory at Swansea on Good Friday, in which Cisse scored his 8th and 9th goals for Newcastle, SKY displayed a table which showed Cisse’s goal return in comparison with other strikers from their first 8 Premier League games:
|Micky Quinn||8||10||Coventry City||1992-93|
|Papiss Cisse||8||9||Newcastle United||2011-12|
|Sergio Aguero||8||9||Manchester City||2011-12|
|Mark Viduka||8||9||Leeds United||2000-01|
|Alan Shearer||8||8||Blackburn Rovers||1992-93|
|Franceso Baiano||8||8||Derby County||1997-98|
As can be seen from the table, Cisse’s 9 goals from his first 8 Premier League games is on a par with the goalscoring starts made by Mark Viduka and Sergio Aguero, and is only bettered by former Newcastle man Micky Quinn, who bounced off the ground to score 10 in his first 8 for Coventry City.
Although SKY would have us believe otherwise, football didn’t begin in 1992 and, especially given the references to Andy Cole, I was intrigued to find out how Cisse’s start compared to that of other top Newcastle marksmen from their first 8 league games for the club.
After trawling through ‘Newcastle United: The Ultimate Record’, these are the findings: alongside Cisse, there are 8 other players who have averaged at least a goal a game in their first 8 starts:
As can be seen from the table above, after 8 league games of his Newcastle career, Cisse’s goal return is only bettered by Hughie Gallacher and Cisse’s arch-nemesis Micky Quinn.
Other notable Newcastle strikers worth mentioning, but who didn’t quite get off to as quick a start as Cisse, are:
Newcastle’s second highest scorer of all time – Jackie Milburn – joined the club in 1943 during the second World War. Up until the 1946-47 season, before the second division fixture list returned to normality, Newcastle and Milburn played in the Wartime League. As such, he has not been included in the findings.
Like Andy Cole, Cisse looks to have a natural finisher’s instinct in front of goal and it’s not surprising that the comparisons are being made; however, whereas Cole played the majority of his football in and around the opposition’s penalty area, Cisse looks to have a better all-round game.
Already in his short Newcastle career, Cisse has shown that he possesses an excellent first touch, intelligent link-up play and good movement; as well as an ability to lead the line, hold the ball up and carry out his defensive duties with minimal fuss.
He scores with his left (Aston Villa), with his right (Swansea) and with his head (Liverpool), as well as scoring instinctive goals (Norwich) and sublime chipped efforts (Swansea). Given the chance, he will, more often than not, take it.
Of course, unlike the team colours, the findings above aren’t necessarily black and white. There are a whole range of variables which stats alone can’t account for: form, injuries, chances presented, team-mate quality, opponents faced, etc. Nor do stats take into account that players will have joined the club at different stages in their career – some rose through the ranks, whereas others joined as already proven scorers – or that they may have converted to a striker from another position.
There is also the possibility that Cisse could go the remaining 6 games of the season without scoring, which would see him ranked lower in a table showing the goals-per-game ratio of Newcastle strikers after 14 games. However, stripping it down to the hard statistics show how well Cisse has taken to his new role as Newcastle’s number 9. At this stage, after his first 8 league games, he is the 3rd most prolific goalscorer in Newcastle’s history.
Eight league games to go and after a scintillating attacking win away to West Brom, talk has began to intensify about a potential European tour next season.
But, no sooner had talk began than a complex situation started to unfold with permutation after permutation emerging. In a bout of insanity, we’ve decided to unravel the situation as it stands at present and gauge how the massively unexpected European qualification could actually become a reality.
Firstly, let’s clarify a few points before we start.
- The FA cup runner up only receives the Europa League place if the cup winner qualifies for the Champions League
- If the only remaining English team in this season’s Champions League, Chelsea, win that competition, they will take a place in next season’s CL, regardless of their league position.
- Liverpool have qualified for next year’s Europa League, regardless of what happens, therefore only 2 Europa league places remain.
- Any English team to win a cup will play European football next season – regardless of league position.
A few permutations…
There are, a frankly ridiculous list of permutations possible with the league and cup competitions remaining so fluid, therefore here’s a non-exhaustive list from the probable, to the mere possible, which all work on the basis that Chelsea do not win the Champions League.
- Scenario 1: Everton wins the FA cup and all teams remain in their current position (as of the w/c 26th March). Everton qualify for the EL (Europa League) as does 5th place in the league.
- Scenario 2: Liverpool reaches the FA cup final and all teams remain in their current position (as of the w/c 26th March) – both teams contesting the final have already a route into Europe by way of League or cup. 6th place opens up for Europa League qualification. Should Liverpool finish in 6th place, the EL place then moves to 7th.
- Scenario 3: Everton reaches the FA cup final but lose to a team who gain CL qualification by league position. Everton qualify for the EL via way of being FA cup runner-up. The Mersyside duo remain in their current league positions, therefore the EL place stays at 5th place in the league.
- Scenario 4: Liverpool wins the FA cup. Having already qualified for the EL by way of their Carling Cup win their ‘second’ qualification then passes to the league, to 6th place.
- Scenario 5: Everton wins the FA cup, but a late (and unlikely) surge from both them and Liverpool combined with a collapse of the teams above them means they take up both 5th and 6th places. With the Merseyside clubs having both already qualified for the EL via their cup wins, the league spot moves to 7th place. If only one of those clubs makes a late surge to 5th place, then 6th place becomes an EL qualifying place.
Complicating things further…
Confused? It only gets worse. A far from impossible Chelsea Champions League win throws everything up into the air – with the FA having confirmed that if they do indeed win the CL then they will take the coveted 4th qualifying place – regardless of where they finish in the league. If Chelsea win the CL and also finish 4th then nothing changes. But Chelsea winning the CL, winning the FA cup but finishing 6th (again, entirely possible) then we arrive at a unique situation.
For example, take the above hypothetical event – 6th place Chelsea beat an 8th place Everton in the FA cup final then win the Champions League final 2 weeks later. Everton would qualify for the EL by way of being FA Cup runner-up and Chelsea would take a CL place – despite both being off the pace in the league. The presumption from there is the Europa League place will then be moved to 4th place and 5th place would not be a qualifying position.
An equally complex scenario would manifest itself should Tottenham win the FA cup and finish 4th, then Chelsea win the CL after finishing 5th. This combination would see Spurs enter the EL, Chelsea enter the CL and the 6th place team qualify for the EL by way of League position. If Liverpool were to finish 6th then the spot would move further down to 7th.
As you can see, things are very far away from being clear, and the permutations will only begin to drop once it becomes clearer who will be contesting both the CL and FA cup finals, respectively. A 14 day period of time separates first the FA cup final, then the end of the Premier League season, then the Champions League final – in which technically a team could qualify for one European competition only to find themselves in another.
As far as Newcastle is concerned, we can only look to win as many games as possible from our remaining eight – particularly the home games against Bolton and Stoke; and the trip to Wigan. It would be a crying shame that such a strong season could end up being rewarded with little more than a few plaudits and extra positional reward money, but the stark reality is with the cup competitions holding dominance over the destination of the European qualification places, things are as much in our hands as they are out of them.
Around 9:30pm on the 17th of January 2012, Newcastle United officially confirmed the signing of Papiss Demba Cisse from Bundesliga side Freiberg – the striker moving for a fee reputed to be between £7.5m and £10m and signing the now infamous five and a half year contract. Notably, he will wear the iconic no. 9 shirt.
Despite having made a move for the player in the dying throws of the August window, the move on this occasion caught almost all by surprise – much in the way the Sylvain Marveaux transfer did, with barely six hours separating first notification through the media to the signing being officially confirmed. To paraphase Winston Churchill, once again NUFC’s ‘precious’ transfer ‘truth’ has been ‘attended by a bodyguard of lies’…
Upon signing, Alan Pardew told the official website “Ever since Andy Carroll left, Papiss was my first choice in the specific role he has at the end of the play… He is a finisher with an already-established CV in the Bundesliga, where we have monitored him for the best part of two years.”
Club career in stats
|Season||Club||Games Played (all comps)||Goals|
|2011/12 (so far)||SC Freiburg||17||9|
*from his transfer to Metz onwards
So what do we get?
“If ever there was a natural candidate for a #9 position in the PL, it’s Cisse.” Raphael Honigstein
With Andy Carroll’s hastily vacated boots having long since been filled by the sometimes unplayable Demba Ba, NUFC have not struggled for goals, but the burden on Ba has been obvious – being accountable for 56% of Newcastle’s goals so far this season. The addition of Cisse promises to give NUFC both an alternative goal scoring option and the prospect of upping their goal tally. Indeed, the latter is an addition that could prove invaluable – NUFC’s 30 goals so far this season is a healthy return but it has been submissive to the defensive contributions in keeping NUFC in the unexpected lofty position they find themselves at the time of writing
“The fast, muscular forward has not only perfectly complemented Freiburg’s style with his exceptional work ethic, but he’s also proved to be an expert finisher” Raphael Honigstein - ‘ Cissé fuels SC Freiburg’s success’
Taking a slight deviation from the current, physically focussed stock of strikers, Papiss should provide more dynamism to the NUFC forward line – his quick turn of pace and intelligent movement in the channels in attack something we lack up front, whilst still maintaining more than enough presence through his 6ft frame. His relationship and previous international game time along-side Demba Ba should make his transition into life and playing in Newcastle a little easier, along with the sheer number of French speaking players at the club now. However, despite the similarities between the Premier League and Bundesliga, a period of adaption is still expected.
A word of warning though…
“A weakness? Can be petulant. Picks up needless bookings” – Martyn Fisher @bundesliga_wrap
Nine yellows in 34 games last season would tend to support this claim – one to keep an eye on perhaps…
Stats Comparison (this season)
|Name||App.||Goals||Assists||Shots PG||Aerials Won||S/Drib PG||Offside PG|
|Demba Ba||17 (2)||15||1||3.2||28/76||0.6||0.9|
|Leon Best||13 (2)||4||2||1.5||44/87||0.7||1.3|
|Modibo Maiga||10 (2)||4||1||2.1||45/96||0.9||0.4|
The transfer of Cisse is as clear cut as any NUFC transfer over the last few years. Whilst the incoming Ba, Santon, Marveaux et al had the undoubted potential to excite the masses on arrival, each individual excitement was tempered by its own respective, and crucial ‘as long as…’ Cisse has signed in good health, good spirits, good form and with no historical injury issues of major note – the question seems to be simply on how he takes, or how long it takes for him to adapt to our style of play and life in England.
Indeed, in a wider context Cisse’s signing lends itself perfectly to a progressive transfer strategy (at least in terms of incomings) we are still coming to understand. Much like Yohan Cabaye and Cheick Tiote before him, Papiss has undoubted ability and is just about to hit the prime years of his football career as he takes to the St James’ Park stage – and all this for a very reasonable fee…
NUFC is slowly turning into a superb environment and stage for those wanting to prove themselves in the Premier League – long may it continue.
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“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” – The words of Winston Churchill, and also a rather succinct analogy for the quandary Newcastle fans find themselves in when deciding whether they want the club to pursue a bid for Manchester United midfielder Ravel Morrison.
You won’t have to conduct an extensive search to find glowing reports on how supremely talented Morrison is, even Brian Marwood (now DOF at Manchester City) discussed his admiration for the youngster, when talking to Henry Winter;
“I signed him at Nike at 15. I know the baggage there. United will work hard to get him back into line. A lot of other clubs give up on that side and indulge him because he’s a talented footballer.’’ (Via thebusbyway.com)
However as Marwood mentions, Morrison comes with a degree of baggage. Charged with two counts of intimidating a witness, to put it bluntly there’s a reason we stand a chance of getting him. Despite brushes with the constabulary and a reported poor attitude, Sir Alex Ferguson still wants to keep Morrison at the club. This week he intimated they had begun contract discussions with the 18 year old, but that his demands (at the present time) were unreasonable.
Of course this isn’t the first time Newcastle have looked to manage a difficult ‘character’. Nile Ranger was the south coast’s answer to Robin Hood while at Southampton. Having had similar introductions with the authorities in Newcastle, some fans have expressed a concern that Morrison’s situation seems all too similar to that of Ranger’s.
There is one notable difference however – Morrison is genuinely talented. Ranger for all his hustle and strength, lacks any real technical ability, and despite a proficiency in the reserves he’s unlikely to ever make it in England’s top tier. By contrast Morrison has been consistently earmarked as the pinnacle of his generation, to compare him to Ranger seems somewhat naive, given the glowing reports and the fact his name is fairly familiar to those with an interest in youth football. He is no overnight sensation.
It should also be remembered, that with any transfer it’s a calculated risk. Many thought that with Ranger, the chance to distance himself from potentially bad influences would settle him down, unfortunately the bright lights of the Bigg market seemed to only enhance the Tony Montana of Morpeth.
With balance an objectivity in mind I introduce an example of a rehabilitated character. Frenchman Hatem Ben Arfa was perceived as something of an ‘enfant terrible’ in France for his fiery temper. Even in his youth at the Clairefontaine Academy he was somewhat disruptive, almost coming to blows with a young Abou Diaby (which can be seen on Youtube). Initially taking him on loan, the video compilations of his undoubted talent were often accompanied with warnings of a poor temperament. The fact Marseille were willing to sell a 12m investment for half that fee typified this.
Yet as we quickly saw, being away from the spotlight of his homeland seemed to address certain issues with professionalism. With similar ties in Manchester, the chance to severe those may provide Morrison with a calming environment in which to flourish, especially given how grounded the majority of our current young players (Ferguson, Abeid, Vuckic etc) seem.
Thursday’s press conference saw a tight lipped response from Alan Pardew as he fielded questions about a reported £500,000 bid for Morrison. With confirmation coming from Sir Alex Ferguson of the first bid, it now seems obvious that Pardew believes he can manage an unstable if not precocious talent
Given the recent quotes attributed to Davide Santon you can see why. The Italian struggled with a different kind of mentality issue when in Italy. The pressure of being dubbed ‘the new Paolo Maldini’ seemed to weigh heavy on the youngster, with injuries hampering his chance of a consistent run of games, he moved to Cesena where he appeared as a left back.
With his confidence somewhat diminished, it seems Pardew has played an important role in building him back up. While not always tactically astute, it would be fair to say Pardew’s strength lies in his ability to motivate and man manage. Whether that ability stretches to someone in Morrison’s position remains unclear.
To digress down a slightly more cynical path, there is no guarantee that all of this conjecture and speculation is not a calculated move from the player and his advisors. Now in the final six months of his deal, interest from other suitors (both above and below us) may force Manchester United’s hand in the same way Wayne Rooney did last season.
Press speculation has suggested that we will return with a further bid. There is no indication as to whether this bid will be accepted, but it raises further debate into how far the club should stretch. If Morrison was to achieve his potential, the windfall for the club could be huge given some of the fees bandied around for English midfielders.
As it stands Manchester United would receive around £300,000 from a tribunal were we to poach the player in the summer. Given the tight financial constraints of our January budget, how much we afford to his capture is a difficult question to answer. £2m? £3m? I’d personally struggle to justify parting with more than the former. After all we are far from bereft of young midfield talent. Haris Vuckic & Mehdi Abeid are both good prospects with neither even looking like being an ounce of trouble away from the pitch.
As December highlighted a centre back and a striker are our real requirements, meaning the purchase of Morrison is far from essential, quite the opposite in fact. Should a loan option arise with a future fee agreed, that may suit us far better. One thing does remain clear, Newcastle in the transfer window remains wholly unpredictable.
The game was somehow still balanced at 0-0. The opposition of the day, Arsenal, had dominated possession and had Newcastle pinned up against their goal for the entirety of the first half.
With both front men seriously short of match fitness Newcastle lacked any attacking presence or ability to break away – it was surely only a matter of time before the home side cracked under the visitors’ increasing pressure. At 46 minutes Gabriel Obertan was summoned from the bench and replaced Ba to play behind the remaining striker, Shola Ameobi. All of a sudden NUFC had an outlet, a lighting quick release to the pressure – a whole new dimension.
His purchase only four days earlier had sparked much debate – his reputed potential as a former student of the world famous Clairefontaine academy in France was without question, but a largely unconvincing and uninvolved spell in his previous employment at Manchester United echoed the hallmarks of the archetypical prodigal footballer who simply failed to ‘make it’.
His introduction into the Arsenal game went some way to buoy the mood of those unconvinced and underwhelmed – after a season of predominantly slow moving, set piece based football NUFC now appeared to have blistering pace on the ground to form the kind of white-knuckle counter attacks that had not been seen since the Sir Bobby Robson days.
It’s fair to say it hasn’t been all so positive since.
The exit of Joey Barton along with Ryan Taylor carving out a covering role at left back meant that Obertan was now not only NUFC’s first choice at right midfield, the role was almost exclusively his. This was the perfect scenario for Gabriel – in two seasons at Manchester United he had been afforded a grand total of 446 minutes first team playing time (less than five games worth), but now he was a fixture in the team without the pressure of rejection upon a patchy performance.
Thrust into the mix without the reassurance of consistency to call upon, his form since has been understandably patchy, although he has managed to show flashes of the kind of attacking prowess that attracted NUFC to him in the first place in an assist wielding performance at Stoke followed by an identical contribution in the boxing day win over Bolton.
However, with Jonas Guiterrez preoccupied covering the vulnerable left back position Newcastle have looked increasingly to Obertan’s right flank to create the much needed width for their predominant 442 formation. When out of form it showed patently and the frustrations of some came quickly to the surface – a notable low being sarcastically applauded off the field after a fruitless performance against Wigan. It was his ninth game.
His early season air of optimism has disappeared without trace.
Gabriel, going forward…
“Obertan broke through to the Bordeaux side in ‘06. He was only used as a sub – but there were signs of definite talent. His ability on the ball and dangerous slalom runs were very eye catching.
The second season failed to see him progress as everyone had hoped and a loan move to Lorient didn’t seem to benefit either party. The ability he first showed gave reason to be excited, it just never developed”. Andrew Gibney – French Football weekly.
First and foremost Gabriel needs to continue playing if we are stand a chance of him reaching his potential. Despite this now being his sixth year in professional football, he has managed just 39 starts in all competitions, at all clubs – 16 of those have been at NUFC. Furthermore, this is the first time those starts have been in consecutive sequence of any reasonable length of time. Lack of reasonable competitive playing time will seriously hinder any player’s development.
“Our fans need to be patient with him as I and the staff need to be at times because we know what he can do”. Alan Pardew – December ’11.
And surely there is talent there to develop. Although his flashes of attacking threat have been short lived, he has crucially shown it enough to know he is capable of it – to state his plus points to be merely a fluke would be very disingenuous. Continuous playing time will undoubtedly provide the best opportunity for this to surface, as will savvy coaching. But Gabriel himself is not devoid of responsibility and must show an equal desire to develop and succeed.
But are NUFC missing a trick?
“Because he is so quick the crowd think he can just beat the full-back by racing him on the outside all the time but he can’t do that, he’d be too one-dimensional”. Alan Pardew – December ’11.
Whilst appreciating the sentiment of wanting to produce a more rounded player, is it perhaps not in both NUFC’s and Obertan’s best interests that he develops (and also improves his confidence) by concentrating on his ability to create from his wide position by using his near untouchable pace as a huge advantage? After all, a standard 442 layout will predominantly look for the right sided midfielder to primarily provide an attacking outlet and to create goal scoring chances.
Indeed, are we missing the point entirely and not playing Obertan in the most effective position for his obvious pace and dribbling ability? Gabriel has, on a number of occasions shown the ‘slalom dribble’, coming in from the right but usually being pressed out when shown onto his left foot. Instead, imagine him playing on the left side of a 433, even 442, using his pace and cutting inside onto his favoured right with the space opened up from his burst of acceleration… This of course does not mean his instant transformation into Cristiano Ronaldo, but perhaps worth a try at in a low risk fixture.
“Of course I have a point to prove, If I had stayed with Manchester United, I think I would have made it, but I don’t know how long it would have taken.
I didn’t want to spend another two years learning and fighting for just a few minutes on the pitch here and there…but I needed to play and here at Newcastle it’s a great opportunity”. Gabriel Obertan – August ’11.
In the short term, seeing a literal manifestation on the field of the positive attitude he showed in his press conference upon singing (above) would do Gabriel the world of good. Although not one for lack of work-rate, his lack of aggression when attacking – even when the situation is tailor made for him – certainly limits his output and lets the opposition full-back grow in confidence when he could easily be a ball of nerves.
Also, for the first time this season his place appears under a very real threat, with both Ryan Taylor and Hatem Ben Arfa excelling in their very short appearances at right midfield – whether Gabriel can up his game quickly to force the competition away, or whether Alan Pardew with continue to consider Obertan as his first choice regardless remains to be seen.
The undoubted physical attributes are there – the technical attributes and mental attributes can be learned. But only through patience, practice and positivity…
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