After a phenomenal start in English football, last season saw Papiss Cissé fade to the background. 2013/14 could be his make or break season
It took Papiss Cissé just fifty-seven minutes to notch his first Premier League goal. Coming on as a fourteenth-minute substitute against Aston Villa in February 2012, the £9 million Senegalese striker scored the winner to send Newcastle above Arsenal in the hunt for Champions League football. Instantly eclipsing compatriot Demba Ba, Cissé went on to finish the season with thirteen league goals from fourteen games, just three less than Ba's total for the entire campaign. His breathtaking curler against Chelsea even won goal of the season. Fans were ecstatic and pundits conceded that this was one of the brightest starts to a career in English football in many years.
Fast forward twelve months and things are looking somewhat gloomier on Tyneside. Cissé failed to score in Newcastle's first eight games of the 2012/13 season, even missing a penalty against Norwich before finally breaking his duck during a League Cup defeat to Man United in late September. He added another against Bordeaux in the Europe League a week later. Cissé eventually got his first league goal of the season at the end of October with an injury time winner against West Brom. Unfortunately this did not signal and end to his striking problems. Whereas in his first half a season, Cissé had overshadowed Ba's goal haul, now it was Ba who was back on form, hitting thirteen goals before his January switch to Chelsea, compared to Cissé's three.
This may have been a sign that the two Senegalese strikers were unable to play together at club level and Alan Pardew must have been hoping that the silver lining of losing Ba would be that Cissé would find his shooting boots again. This was not to be the case and despite featuring in all but one of his team's league fixtures, Cissé ended last season with a tally of just eight goals: five less than he scored in half the number of games last time round.
Though eight goals does not represent a terrible year (Torres also scored eight; Andy Carroll scored 7), it is less than a side supposedly pushing for Europe would expect from their main striker (their only other options are the newcomer Yoan Gouffran and the aging Shola Ameobi).
It is unclear what may have caused Cissé's slide in form. Pardew has suggested his slow start to the season may have been related to his month of fasting during Ramadan, which finished on the same day that the Premier League season began. Furthermore Newcastle's difficult season was hampered by a string of injuries to their midfield which may have resulted in fewer chances being created. On top of this, Europa League qualification meant that Cissé was most likely overtired from having to play 47 games in all competitions; the most he had ever played in France or Germany was 38. Or it could simply be that second season syndrome kicked in, a condition which some imported players never recover from (Andrey Arshavin being a case in point).
But could it be that Cissé has merely been incredibly unlucky? At times during last season it seemed as though nothing would go right for him. In the same way that Torres was regularly missing open goals when the pressure was on to perform at Chelsea, Cissé at times has looked like a cursed figure. After seeing yet another of his goals ruled out for offside, I delved through the stats to see if there was any weight to this theory.
As it turned out, since January alone Papiss Cissé has had six goals ruled out, hit the woodwork a total of four times and even had a shot cleared off the line. If even a handful of those 'nearly-goals' had gone in his favour, people would not be talking about his collapse in form.
Hypothetically, if Cissé is suffering from chronic bad luck, what measures can he or his club take to help him snap out of it? In the Torres case, he seemed to just keep his head down and keep plugging away until things (gradually) began to improve. But Cissé is probably not valued so highly as to be allowed all the time in the world. Patience is already starting to deteriorate. The news that Newcastle were only just beaten to the signature of Wigan's impressive striker Arouna Koné by Everton should remind Cissé that his place in next season's starting eleven is not guaranteed. Perhaps competition is what he needs, although with Ba at the club neither striker seemed to find their top form at the same time. Newcastle though cannot be expected to solely rely on an eight-goal per season striker if they want to improve on last year's disappointing finish.
Off the pitch too tensions have arisen over the Magpies' new sponsorship by the online loan company 'Wonga.com' as Cissé's Muslim beliefs may prohibit him from wearing a shirt advocating money-lending.
So 2013/14 could be Cissé's chance either to silence the doubters or to prove them right. In his short time in this country he has produced some outstanding performances and scored some incredible goals and no doubt everyone would be sad to see him fail to add to those. If he can hit the ground running in the new season he should be able to find his confidence again, find his shooting boots and break his bad luck curse. Either that or he may be doomed to join the unfortunate list of one-season wonders.