The Digest returns to discuss a goal machine in overdrive, the return of a North East revival and why we could do without forensic video analysis in our Fantasy football…
Papiss Cisse is a rare commodity – a footballing talent that has been able to take his form from another European league and immediately translate it into returns in England’s top flight. Perhaps the reason for Cisse’s easy transition is that his key skill – the ability to find goalscoring positions and finish the job – is unreliant on adapting to a change in pace, style or aggression. Natural goalscorers can ply their trade regardless of those factors if self-belief is high. Right now, as Alan Pardew remarked earlier this week, the confidence is oozing from Cisse and he looks well capable of maintaining his goal per game average.
Liverpool’s defence was the latest to feel Cisse’s force – once regarded as one of the top three rearguards in the league, the absence of Dan Agger has disrupted matters and left them exposed. None more so that Jamie Carragher, although the uncertainty has also crept into those around him – Martin Skrtel and Jose Enrique look shadows of the players we saw a month ago.
Cisse gleefully accepted the space afforded to him to convert his second consecutive brace. The triumvirate he forms with Demba Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa continued on from their outstanding form at the Hawthorns in the Magpies’ previous match, cutting through the Liverpool defence with a swashbuckling ease.
Right now, with Cisse in bloom and his two attacking colleagues combining with such effect, Newcastle look a devastating attacking force. Fantasy managers will be taking note, gladly accepting Cisse and Ben Arfa into their squads, whilst wondering how long Ba will go on playing a cameo role in the recent ascendency.
While Ba sheds his concerned Fantasy owners at pace, Cisse has enjoyed a double Fantasy Premier League (FPL) price rise in the Gameweek already, fetching over 50,000 new owners in 48 hours. The switch seems irresistible, at 7.2 he remains a clear bargain – although the trip to the Liberty Stadium this weekend will surely provide a stern test of Pardew’s slick attacking trio.
We’d almost forgotten about Sunderland. A miserable run of one win in five had seem them slip from the radar as, without the pace and trickery of the suspended Stephane Sessegnon, they struggled to threaten opponents, whilst failing to keep goals at bay at the other end. We presumed that Martin O’Neill’s North East honeymoon was over. Now it seems things are back on track – the marriage is in bloom and the smiles are back.
The importance of Sessegnon’s return cannot be understated. Whilst Seb Larsson and James McClean always offered assured service from the flanks, Nicklas Bendtner needed the spark of Sessegnon buzzing around him to help put defences on the back foot. At City, Sessegnon was electric, providing two assists and tormenting a shell-shocked home defence which never expected the Black Cats to show their claws.
Bendtner has now scored four in five games – whatever your view on his seemingly inflated self-worth – his rate of goals has us taking notice. Sessegnon is now an obvious target once again, James McClean is the budget alternative. At the back, Simon Mignolet continues to offer value in goal, while Michael Turner a cheap and resolute barrier in front of him.
Sunderland’s assets are back on our shopping list with fixtures falling nicely and a Gameweek 34 match in place. While double Gameweek distractions are seductive, there looks to be good value on offer amongst O’Neill’s troops once more.
The Talking Point
Here we are again. When we found ourselves painstakingly examining Danny Welbeck’s studs back in Gameweek 21, it was clear that we’d found ourselves backed into an uncomfortable corner by a ruling that demanded such precision. On Sunday we were left looking for the merest of touches from Ben Arfa’s boot, shorts or limbs, desperately examining angles to decipher whether Demba Ba’s pass deviated in its path before being dispatched so effectively by Papiss Cisse. The smart teamwork and clinical finish was lost on us within seconds – all we cared about was whether Ben Arfa had, unintentionally, earned an assist.
It’s not a great place to be. As it is, we are again at the mercy of the Press Association verdict. Like it or not, the assist remained with Ben Arfa and we move on. That’s not the discussion here. Once again though, we have to question why there is such a debate, such a thorough examination of footage, when any touch by the Frenchman surely played little part in Cisse’s goal.
A mini-league, or worse still, the FPL crown, could depend on a brush of the studs and the camera angles available to make it out. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that and, when the season is over, let’s hope the FPL re-examine their definition to see if we can avoid such scenarios.