This season Demba Ba has had to play third-wheel to the rickety but reliable Samuel Eto’o and the wayward, complete opposite Fernando Torres. Jose Mourinho knows next season’s necessity is to bring in a high-quality goalscorer to take his side to the next level. But for now, he has to live with what he’s got. And as the season draws to its conclusion, he would be wise to put his trust in Ba.
Demba Ba’s Chelsea career has really yet to lift-off. He’s had very little to write home about, and given the fans even less to sing for, until now.
Even if Chelsea go no further in this season’s Champions League, Ba has had his Chelsea moment. A semi-final exit will bring huge disappointment, but it won’t have been for nothing. Nights like Chelsea’s 2-0 comeback over Paris St Germain are what footballers and fans live for. The moments of sheer unbridled elation where all come together as one just for a few seconds. Having been eliminated at the 2012-13 group stage, the club has taken giant strides forwards. Overturning a first-leg, two-goal deficit against PSG at Stamford Bridge proves the club’s mettle yet again.
Ba’s statistics don’t immediately stand out as worthy of a team as ambitious as Chelsea. Six goals in 24 appearances this season aren’t the kind of statistics that will endear him to his highly-demanding manager. However, just three of these appearances have been from the start. Ba has had to make do with late cameo appearances from the bench.
But the nature of his match-winning performance against PSG should fill Mourinho with confidence heading into the coming fixtures. Demba Ba had a clear duty when he was introduced. He was to disrupt with his physical presence. With Torres and Eto’o flanking him, he had players around him to receive his knockdowns. When the game got more desperate, Chelsea had a target man in the mould of Didier Drogba that they haven’t had the luxury of since the Ivorian’s departure.
In no way am I trying to draw any comparisons in terms of quality between the two men. Drogba is a Chelsea legend, and one of (if not the) best African players of all time. Few have the big game temperament and record to match his. But Demba Ba’s Champions League statistics show him to be a useful addition to the squad. He has scored in his last three appearances in the competition, averaging an outstanding 1.88 goals per 90 minutes, and he has won 47 per cent of aerial duels. His physicality is already suited to the Premier League, and proves troublesome in Europe.
If the rumours are true, and Mourinho is looking to invest in Diego Costa from Atletico Madrid this summer, then Demba Ba may just be the best impersonator the club currently has. He is physical, hard-working, sharp, a competent finisher, good in aerial duels, and capable of some truly brilliant goals (just watch YouTube if you don’t believe me). If Mourinho is looking to build his attack around someone of Costa’s style, Ba is the best prototype the club has.
At Newcastle, Ba’s goalscoring record was impressive. When played as a central striker he was lethal. He wouldn’t have been acquired by Rafa Benitez if he wasn’t worth it.
Despite just three starts, and limited pitch-time, Ba hasn’t aired his dirty laundry in public. He hasn’t been outspoken or sniffed around other clubs. He’s got on with his job. As Fernando Torres looks to be in a perpetual state of decline, and Eto’o has issues surrounding his fitness, Ba could be Mourinho’s go-to-guy for the remainder of the season. He may not be his ideal choice of striker, but he has to make-do-and-mend.
Ba’s contribution may have so far been minimal, but it could be vital come May.