Step aside Cisse: Ba regains his place as Newcastle striking hero

The former West Ham striker continued his fine early-season form against Norwich City on Sunday afternoon but his compatriot is struggling for goals and missed a penalty
By Matt Scott at Sports Direct Arena

Papiss Cisse's introduction to life at Newcastle United last season was stunning. But while the Magpies' No. 9 struggles for form in 2012-13, it is Demba Ba who has reclaimed the title of top dog on Tyneside.

Cisse looked unstoppable at times last term, scoring the simple and the sensational as Alan Pardew's side narrowly missed out on a top-four finish.

Conversely Ba, who had been prolific in the first half of last season, was shunted onto the left wing to accommodate his £10 million compatriot, and failed to score in a long dry run for the Magpies following Cisse's arrival on Tyneside.

But now the roles have been reversed, while Cisse cannot buy a goal at the moment, Ba is the in-form striker at the club, having added to his double against Everton with a composed and decisive finish against Norwich on Sunday.

Cisse's performance was characterised by a complete lack of confidence. His touch looked uncertain, his finishing was ponderous, and his poor afternoon was underlined by a skied penalty in the 43rd minute, which left his team on edge for the rest of the game.

The former Freiburg man was visibly affected by his failure from 12 yards, emerging from the tunnel for the second half looking forlorn and he was substituted on 70 minutes after another shaky effort on goal that failed to suitably trouble John Ruddy.

The fact that Cisse was given the chance to take the spot-kick by Hatem Ben Arfa, who netted a penalty in Newcastle's opening-day win over Tottenham, also underlined the team's belief in their No.9.

The crowd's rapturous chanting of Cisse's name, even after the miss, also hints that faith in the star striker is yet to be dented, despite his barren spell. He has now endured 12 hours of first-team action without a goal, since his mind-boggling sidewinder effort at Stamford Bridge at the back-end of last season.

Cisse's sticky patch has been largely offset, however, due to the form of not only Ba, but also Ben Arfa.

The France international sparkled against the Canaries, providing the assist for Ba's solitary goal, and tormenting the Norwich backline throughout his time on the pitch.

With Ben Arfa at his best, and Yohan Cabaye regaining his finest fettle, the chances are likely to continue for Cisse and his manager Alan Pardew, retains confidence that his No.9 will hit the net sooner rather than later.

"I'm not going to talk Papiss up, but he had three good chances today," Pardew told reporters after the game.

"In training he would have scored them all but when there's 50,000 people, the pressure, it's what you can do.

33/1 Demba Ba is 33/1 to be the top Premier League goalscorer in 2012-13 with bet365
"But one off his knee, or one off his nose and he'll be alright, he's a great player."

It is unsurprising that Pardew is so calm over one striker's lack of goals when they are flowing for another, but Ba's future at the club remains shrouded in uncertainty with his £7m release clause still very much available for clubs to take advantage of in January.

Ba's agent was quoted as saying his client was unhappy at irregular playing time so far this season, but the player has responded in the best possible way, rescuing a draw with his double at Everton before grabbing his side three points on Sunday.

Cisse has never looked a completely rounded player at any point in his time on Tyneside, more a predatory forward with a knack for goals, hinting that one golden chance could provide him with the perfect platform to get back on track.

If Ba can continue his run of form, though, the off-field issues will not matter, and if Cisse can join him in hitting the back of the net, the Magpies will once again be flying high.

Follow Matt Scott on