Demba Ba had a good start to his Chelsea career scoring on his league debut against Southampton not long after he bagged two in the demolition of them just over a week earlier. However, it took him a further five appearances before he notched in the EPL again – against WBA last time out.
It’s been a stop-start time for the Senegalese thanks in part to Rafa Benitez’ penchant for rotation and desire to give Fernando Torres every last opportunity to find his goal scoring boots. The question is, how good is Demba Ba and is he the right man to lead Chelsea’s attack?
We can answer this in part by studying his career goal return from the shots he’s taken. After studying over 30,000 EPL shots over the last three seasons we can state the number of shots it takes to score a goal from certain positions on the pitch. The pattern is so regular we can separate the penalty box into two main areas (central and wide) and lump all open play shots from outside the box together. Direct free kicks are a different kettle of fish and must be treated separately (as we’ll demonstrate in a minute) and obviously penalties must be given their own number.
The graphic on the left shows the league average number of shots it takes to score from these zones, while the graphic on the right shows how many shots it takes Ba to score over his EPL career so far:
Immediately we can see that unless Ba is inside the box and central in front of goal he’s no great shakes. Incredibly, in 73 EPL appearances, he’s yet to find the net from a wide area inside the box.
Ba is a great example of why open play shots from outside the box must be treated differently from direct free kicks. In general play, Ba is wayward with his long range shooting, but from dead balls he’s been a different proposition. He’s only taken 8 shots from free kicks in his time in England, yet he’s scored twice. It’s a different skill set and in general you have so called “experts” in this regard. Ba isn’t deemed one of them, but even allowing for the limited data range so far, he should be up the pecking order to try his luck.
Mapping his shots game by game we can see a rolling tally of what we could expect the average player might expect to score and how many Ba has actually scored:
Since he came to EPL, we can see that Ba has been ahead of the game and that even with relegated West Ham, he was able to beat the average. It’s a testament to his finishing skills in that central zone inside the box, that despite flat lining in front of goal for the middle part of his Newcastle career, the Sengalese is still way above expectation.
If Chelsea can create chances for him in that area then in theory he should be able to finish them. But in theory, this should have been the same for Fernando Torres too. I’m not convinced with the way Chelsea play they create enough chances for this type of striker – the kind that love the ball played in behind early – strikers like Ba and Torres.
At West Ham, Ba was getting 4 shots off per game. This went down to just over 3.5 at Newcastle. Already at Chelsea, whether through lack of playing time or chances created it’s down to 2 per game. Already in the graphic above we can see the recent dip in the red line indicating a lack of likely goals while at Chelsea. Already we can begin to see why at this current time, Chelsea Football Club could turn into an out-n-out striker’s graveyard.