The January transfer window has only been open a matter of days but Premier League clubs have already been busy, with the most intriguing move so far seeing Demba Ba swap Newcastle United for Chelsea, begging the question: is the Senegal star about to relegate Fernando Torres permanently to the bench?
The 27-year-old has joined Chelsea after the European champions triggered the £7.5 million release clause in his contract, giving boss Rafael Benitez a much-needed boost to a strikeforce that has been too reliant on Torres despite the Spaniard’s obvious struggle for consistent form.
Following Didier Drogba’s departure for China last summer, Romelu Lukaku was allowed to join West Brom on loan, while Daniel Sturridge was frozen out long before sealing his £12 million move to Liverpool this week, leaving Torres to shoulder the Blues’ goalscoring burden.
But the former Atletico Madrid striker has come up well short on that front, so even though he is not a world-renowned name, is Ba about to usurp the £50 million man?
With Benitez preferring to play just one central striker, it doesn’t look like there is room to accommodate both men and if it is a straight choice between Ba and Torres, there can only be one winner at the moment.
Reputation should mean little, especially when Torres has played like a lemon for most of his Chelsea career, and on form alone you would think that Ba is going to get plenty of game time.
Ba has been a sensation since he moved to English football, first with West Ham United in January 2011, and then with Newcastle, where he has become one of the most consistent goalscorers in the Premier League.
In fact, as January 2011 was also the time Torres signed for Chelsea, a comparison between both players’ performances since doesn’t make good reading for the World Cup winner.
Since the transfer window two years ago, Torres has largely stunk the place out, scoring just 26 goals in 99 games for Chelsea and a mere 14 in 66 Premier League games: a desperately poor return for a player who had previously scored 65 league goals in 102 games for Liverpool and well below what his new team-mate has achieved.
Ba has struck 36 goals in 66 Premier League games, including 13 so far this season for the Magpies, and looks a much better bet than Torres in nearly every respect: finishing, build-up play, work ethic.
To this end, bwin has some interesting markets on how Ba will perform at Chelsea, in particular when compared with Torres.
The Senegal striker is 83/100 to outscore Torres (who is even money) between now and the end of the Premier League season, which looks a cracking bet to me.
Ba already has six more goals than Torres at this point and if, as I suspect, he will get his fair share of games, then I see no other outcome than Ba bagging more goals.
In addition, Ba is 91/100 to score nine or fewer league goals for Chelsea between now and the end of the season and the same price to score ten goals or more.
Despite what I’ve said about Ba’s ability, I would be on the nine or fewer: there are 18 games left for the Blues and even a ratio of one in two wouldn’t break double figures and even if he gets all the big games, Ba is unlikely to start every single league match from hereon in.
He may well get a debut in the FA Cup against Southampton at the weekend and bwin make him 2/1 to mark that with a goal, which would return a cool £60 for new customers successfully backing him with their free £20 bet.
Ba, who is currently three goals behind Robin van Persie in the race for the Golden Boot, is also 9/1 to finish as the Premier League’s top scorer.