The Senegalese striker’s last-gasp winner against Crystal Palace recently was his first from open play for a staggering eleven months. It was also the first time that the Magpies have scored in a league match this season when Loic Remy hasn’t featured.
With a fairly substantial overhaul of Newcastle’s squad expected in the summer, Cisse’s long term future on Tyneside is unclear. The striker was rumoured to have interested Besiktas, Fenerbahce and Rubin Kazan in the January window and these clubs could return once again in the summer. For a player so clearly struggling for form, a fairly reasonable cash offer could prove difficult to turn down. But should Newcastle really give up on Cisse?
First Demba Ba. Now Loic Remy. Newcastle’s number nine has often proven the makeweight in accommodating a preferred strike partner to the clear detriment of his own performance.
No foreign striker has ever made or will likely ever make as big an impact upon their arrival in the Premier League as Cisse did after signing with the Magpies in January 2012. Alongside Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa in a free-flowing attacking triumvirate, the former Freiburg striker notched an incredible thirteen goals in just fourteen appearances to help Newcastle secure a shock fifth place finish.
Selected in a central role at this point, Cisse effectively operated solely as a finisher. It didn’t matter that the striker wasn’t contributing anything in the build-up play as everything he touched seemed to hit the back of the net, like this memorable strike against Chelsea.
But with Ba’s much publicised release clause, Pardew attempted to convince Cisse’s fellow countryman to stay by shifting the number nine out on to the right wing. While Ba flourished in the centre before moving to Stamford Bridge, Cisse inevitably struggled in the wide role. The confidence and goals which had flowed so easily before began to dry up. A victim of mismanagement, the positional change was the beginning of Cisse’s downturn in fortune.
It is said that strikers on a goal drought should only genuinely start to worry when they are no longer getting any chances to score. As Newcastle fans will readily attest to, Cisse regularly finds himself in good positions only to spurn the opportunities which come his way. The striker almost infuriatingly seems locked in a constant battle with the offside flag, although he was denied legitimate goals unfairly on a number of occasions last season.
But since January and the sale of influential playmaker Yohan Cabaye, how far can Cisse really be blamed for the Magpies’ horrendous shortage of goals? As a poacher that waits for the opportunities, the number nine has been starved of quality service. The absence of Cabaye and Pardew’s refusal to play the likes of Hatem Ben Arfa and Sylvain Marveaux means that the number nine cuts an isolated figure in attack.
With Shola Ameobi, Luuk de Jong and Remy all expected to leave Tyneside in the summer, Cisse will likely be the only recognised first team striker left at the club. Despite some obvious flaws, Newcastle shouldn’t be so keen to sell their number nine. According to Match of the Day, five of Cisse’s last eleven goals have astonishingly come in the 90th minute or later. The number nine may not have scored many in recent times but when he does, they often prove to be valuably decisive strikes.
Cisse will almost certainly never return to the blistering level of form that he showed upon his arrival in English football. Expecting anyone other than Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo to maintain that level of performance would be foolish.
But that doesn’t mean that the club should give up on their number nine. Cisse’s troubles are essentially symptomatic of the issues that have plagued Newcastle in recent times. The mismanagement of certain individuals as well as a chronic lack of creativity have blunted the Magpies’ attack. Rather than looking to offload their last senior forward in the summer, Newcastle should concentrate more on bringing in the players that could create opportunities for the number nine.
Cisse will likely continue to frustrate as much, if not more, than he delights the Toon Army. But unless you’re Fernando Torres, that ability in front of goal doesn’t just disappear overnight. Played regularly as a poacher with quality service, Cisse could well prove to be a valuable asset for the club once again.
He many not have done so recently but in all honesty, who has performed for Newcastle in an attacking sense lately?