Newcastle are on the verge of signing a striker, they have so dearly missed since the departure of Demba Ba. The Tyne-side club are hoping to wrap up the deal for Lyon striker Bafetimbi Gomis within next few days.
Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas claimed that a fee in the region of £7m potentially rising to £8.7m, including the add-ons has been agreed for the striker. The only stumbling block remains is the dispute over agent fees and commission that is causing the delay.
“There are several people involved in the operation, which complicates the negotiations. But I am hopeful that things will be resolved within 24 or 48 hours.”
Gomis turns 28 next Tuesday and will join a vast contingent of French players at Newcastle. From that perspective, he should not find any such difficulty in adjusting to the system of the club.
Gomis is a strong, well-built striker whose playing styles are more-or-less similar to that of Didier Drogba, and hence he is often called the “Baby Drogba”. He likes to get on shoulder-to-shoulder with the central defenders when playing as a target-man. A generally good passer of the ball, like all other target striker, he likes to do lay-offs allowing other attacking players to get more involved in the game.
The best quality about the Frenchman is his finishing. He is generally a calm finisher inside the box and his 16 goals last season are testimony of his goal scoring prowess.
Newcastle badly needed a striker, having lost Demba Ba to Chelsea last season in the January transfer window and further failing to add any new striker to their ranks as replacement. His arrival will not only bring an extra body in the strike department but will provide support to and take the goal scoring burden off central striker Papiss Cisse.
The question is – how will Alan Pardew use him in his system? Pardew is a different sort of manager – he is reactive and changes his system according to opposition rather than laying out a long-term vision/template for the club. This has led to some sort of inconsistency in terms of general progress of the club: In 2011-12, Newcastle were fifth from the top and one season later they are fifth again but this time from the bottom.
One of the major criticisms Pardew faced in the last two seasons is his inability to use two strikers together effectively, ever since Cisse arrived at the club. The 4-4-2 system using Cisse and Ba didn’t work, so, either Ba was shifted on the left or Cisse was drifted on the right side to accommodate both of them, thereby limiting the potential of either of the strikers.
Last season, Pardew used at least five different formations and gained some little success with the only 4-2-3-1 system using Cisse/Ba as a lone striker. He used Yohan Cabaye just behind Cisse in a 4-4-1-1 and tried that formation in two matches – as predictably lost out in both of them. Earlier in the season, the Ba-Gutierrez-Cisse upfront combo in a 4-3-3 system didn’t work too well for him either. He tried Cisse on the right wing in the 4-5-1 system and didn’t win a single match in four attempts, suffering three defeats in the process. And when he reverted back to 4-4-2 with Ba and Cisse, Pardew managed only three victories in 13 attempts, which included seven defeats.
Of course, there were other factors too for Newcastle’s poor performances, like too many players joined in January and not all of them could adjust well, injuries to several key players, loss of confidence – but one thing was certain – Pardew couldn’t use his strikers effectively.
Now, Gomis is a typical target man who plays as a central striker. He is well comfortable in any formation that doesn’t force him to change his natural position. He played in 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, 4-4-2 (alongside Lisandro Lopez), 3-4-2-1 and 4-1-4-1 respectively – and in every case he was the focal point of the attack.
The best way to use any target man in a 4-2-3-1 system (since used by both Pardew and Remi Garde to large extent) is to complement him with a versatile attacking central midfielder. In Lyon’s case, it was Arsenal-target Clement Grenier. The Frenchman is a brilliant player, who is creative, makes the timely runs in the box, likes to link-up play with the strikers and other attackers (mainly the wide players) and can play as defensive central midfielder as well, when needed to drop deep. Gomis and Grenier combo worked very well last season and the performance against Marseille comes to mind, where the striker had notched up a hat-trick which arguably was his best performance of the season.
Post January, Moussa Sissoko was deployed in the hole in the 4-2-3-1 formation for Newcastle, and the Frenchman didn’t disappoint. Pardew can think about forging a strong partnership involving the duo, similar to what Gomis did with Grenier at Lyon.
Gomis also did well in a 4-4-2 formation, though Garde used the system only thrice in the entire season, where he won twice and drew once. Nowadays, most managers abandon this old-school formation, rather there is a trend of using its variations to accommodate more quality midfielders as keeping possession has become a key ingredient in modern football.
At soon to be 28, Gomis is no longer a baby, but he can replicate the success earned by Drogba in the Premier League. He has the potential, but he needs right type of players beside him and the system to go with it.
Therefore, if Pardew wants to squeeze out the best from him, he must play him as a central forward. Further, his primary task will be not to find a way to accommodate both strikers or buy further strikers to make a mess of everything, but to find solutions of how to use their forwards together and bring out the best from them.