To the relief of Rafa Benitez, the imminent signing of in-form striker, Demba Ba (27), has just about done enough to overshadow Chelsea’s poor showing in the 1-0 defeat to QPR on Wednesday night. Chelsea remain 14 points adrift of league leaders, Manchester United, and despite having played one game less, their title aspirations look all but over.
However, as a club in transition, Chelsea fans can be optimistic for the future. This season has seen the likes of Oscar (21) and Edin Hazard (21) produce some eye-catching performances, not to mention the likes of Kevin de Bruyne (21, on loan at Werder Bremen), Tomas Kalas (19, on loan at Vitesse), and Romelu Lukaku (19, on loan at WBA) – just to name a few – all impressing as loanees at their respective clubs.
In terms of the present, few can argue with the imminent signing of Demba Ba for £7million. With 29 goals in 58 appearances for Newcastle United, it could arguably be Chelsea’s best bit of business under Roman Abramovich (although I am sure many Chelsea fans will want to see £50million-rated Radamel Falcao arrive in January). However, it may spell further misery for the misfiring, Fernando Torres, unless Benitez – or Abramovich – opts for a tactical change and goes for two out-and-out strikers. Benitez deemed Chelsea’s 2011/2012 joint EPL top scorer, Daniel Sturridge, surplus to requirements and has looked to utilise the likes of Juan Mata, Oscar, Edin Hazard, and Victor Moses in supporting roles behind Fernando Torres thus far.
In similar fashion to when Romelu Lukaku signed in the summer for £20million, Demba Ba is being touted as the “new” Didier Drogba. And not just because Chelsea fans can remove the “Drog” off the back of their old shirts. Ba and Lukaku have both displayed the strength, speed, and aerial threat, all reminiscent of Didier Drogba. With Fernando Torres unable to reproduce the kind of form he showed whilst at Liverpool, many have highlighted the need to replace Didier Drogba. Drogba was frozen-out under Andre Villas-Boas last season, before playing a key role in the FA Cup and Champions League successes under Roberto Di Matteo. With Didier Drogba, Fernando Torres, Nicolas Anelka, Daniel Sturridge, and Romelu Lukaku all registered strikers at the start of the 2011/2012 season, Chelsea still look short in the strikers department even with the imminent signing of Demba Ba. Unless a £50milliom bid for Radamel Falcao is on the cards, a recall for Romelu Lukaku has to be considered following his impressive loan spell at WBA. Lukaku himself has declared that he would like to stay at WBA. But the stats suggest he is capable of bolstering the Chelsea front-line, as Demba Ba (2012/2013), Romelu Lukaku (2012/2013), and Didier Drogba (2011/2012) are compared below.
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With Lukaku in and out the team with injury troubles this season and Drogba being frozen-out for large parts of last season under Andre Villas-Boas, it is appropriate to compare the strikers over the amount of minutes played. Lukaku has the most impressive minutes per goal ratio, with a goal every 121 minutes, as opposed to a goal every 128 minutes in the case of Ba. Drogba scored just 5 EPL goals last season, averaging a goal every 296 minutes. Lukaku is also narrowly ahead of Ba in terms of minutes per shot on target, boasting a shot on target every 39 minutes, as opposed to a shot on target every 45 minutes in the case of Ba. Drogba averaged a shot on target every 70 minutes. Lukaku has the highest chance conversion rate (22%), but has missed 8 clear-cut chances, whereas Ba has converted 54% of his clear-cut chances. We can see that Drogba had few clear-cut chances last season.
Suggesting that these stats mean that Ba and Lukaku can simply come in and fill the void left by Drogba would be undermining his contribution as a “team-player”. Drogba’s ability to carry the ball forward and relieve the pressure from his side is demonstrated below, attempting the most dribbles (39) with the highest success rate (44%), although this is only narrowly ahead of Lukaku (42%). Drogba was also the most creative, creating a chance every 49 minutes and a clear-cut chance every 247 minutes. We can see that Lukaku has shown similar tendencies to Drogba in this area, whereas Ba favours a more direct approach.
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The imminent arrival of Demba Ba is likely to give Rafa Benitez a tactical headache. With Fernando Torres preferred by owner Roman Abramovich, Chelsea’s front-line will require bolstering should Demba Ba partner Fernando Torres up-front, particularly with Victor Moses preferred in a supporting role. Unless a £50million bid for Radamel Falcao is on the cards, the form of Lukaku should not go unnoticed. Despite Lukaku expressing his desire to stay at WBA, having Lukaku, Ba, and Torres at their disposal will definitely offer Chelsea a different dimension in the final third. Demba Ba and Romalu Lukaku clearly have the firepower to boost Chelsea’s attacking options, but replacing Didier Drogba will always be tough ask.
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.