Without a Newcastle goal prior to facing Blackburn this weekend, Ba broke his duck against Rovers with style, netting twice in the first 30 minutes and adding a third shortly before the hour mark. For his goals, Ba variously showed an excellent touch to control Leon Best’s centre and turn before shooting past Paul Robinson, aerial prowess to nod home his second goal and clever positional play to pull to the far post for his hat-trick effort. Such all-round capabilities should perhaps not be a surprise from a striker who netted 37 goals in 97 appearances in Germany’s Bundesliga.
Pardew was, however, desperate to sign another striker over the summer even after the capture of Ba – so much so that Newcastle’s famous No 9 shirt was left vacant following Carroll’s departure. Much was made a year ago of Carroll wearing the same number as Alan Shearer but when Newcastle accepted Liverpool’s £35m for the striker’s services, and no replacement was forthcoming in the January transfer window, it was widely assumed that whoever Pardew brought to the club to fill Carroll’s boots would also fill his squad number. That has not been the case for Ba, the only out-and-out striker signed in the transfer window – winger Gabriel Obertan also arrived – but even wearing the No 19, Ba this weekend went some way towards replacing Carroll.
One performance is not enough to thoroughly judge Ba’s chances of success on Tyneside, but, having been signed on a free transfer, the Senegal international looks another smart piece of business by the club. Joining the likes of Cheick Tiote as bargain signings picked up for a fraction of their real value, Ba, should he manage a goal return of between 10 and 15 this season, will have proved an invaluable addition to Pardew’s ranks. That figure should not be beyond him, either. Perhaps lost in the saga of West Ham’s relegation is the fact that Ba scored seven goals in 13 games for the Hammers, and combined with his half-season at Hoffenheim, actually had a record of 16 goals in 33 games for the 2010/11 campaign.
Ba’s goals did not only well and truly signal his arrival as a striker to be feared – they also took Newcastle to fourth in the early Premier League table, and brought about the Magpies’ best start to a season since 1993/94. The excellent opening has been helped no end by the work at the other end of the pitch from Ba, the defence, which has conceded only three goals in six league games, the best record of any top flight team. With Ba scoring at one end and Fabricio Coloccini and co keeping them out at the other, Newcastle might have the makings of a season to remember.