On Sunday, Sky Sports reported that Chelsea had interest in bringing in Demba Ba when the transfer window opens. The move would fill an obvious need, as Chelsea have only one center forward now that Daniel Sturridge has been sold to the middle of the table. The question therefore, is does Demba Ba fit?
Let's start be looking at the financial aspect of this move. After amortizing Daniel's transfer fee, Sturridge had an annual hit of around £5.03 million*. That's not too bad. We know Demba Ba has a buyout of £7.5 million, and I'm going to assume we give him a four year deal** at about £80k per week if we do come to an agreement. That brings the estimated annual cost of Demba Ba to £6.03 million annually. Ignoring the transfer fee we get from Sturridge (that gets accounted differently for FFP), we would be paying about £1 million more annually for Demba Ba than we did for Daniel Sturridge. That would be a smaller gap with a longer deal, and a larger gap with a shorter one.
*I'm going to ignore agent's fees for both players, as I just don't have data I trust for Sturridge. I'd assume they were fairly similar, as Danny's agents had a lot of leverage when we signed him.
**Either 3.5 or 4.5 years would seem to make the most sense for a January buy, so I just split the difference.
Is Demba Ba an upgrade to Daniel Sturridge? In the short term, that's an obvious yes. There is very little question that Demba Ba is a better player than Daniel Sturridge right now, and he's also a better fit with our side currently because he's a natural center forward.
So what exactly is it that Ba does so well? Well first and foremost, he's just a very good finisher and long range shooter. As a center forward, this is massively important. He's not afraid to shoot, as he get's about twice as many shots off per start than our own Fernando Torres. He's also a far more useful player in the air than any attackers we currently have at Chelsea, and he'd be a realistic option to go route one. That is something Chelsea are clearly lacking at the moment, unless they recall a certain youngster from West Brom.
Ba would also seem to fit seamlessly into the system Rafa Benitez has been trying to employ. He works best in a very direct role, running at either the near post or far post and attacking balls played in front of him. One of the main reasons our offense so frequently broke down under Roberto Di Matteo was the absence of those types of runs from Fernando Torres. Under Rafa, we've occasionally seen Torres making those runs, and we've been at our best when he does just that. He still doesn't do it enough though, and Ba's more direct style would likely result in more goals.
There are downsides to Ba as well, most notably his well known knee issues. While I've never seen a specific report about exactly what is wrong with those knees, we do know for certain that he's failed physicals on several occasions because of concerns over the long term health of his joints. While the money we'd be spending wouldn't seem like a lot for a player of his skills, there is a very real chance that he would be worth absolutely nothing by the end of any contract he signs.
The other downside of Demba Ba would be his current status in terms of cups. Ba has played in both the League Cup and Europa League, so won't be able to take part in any of those games for Chelsea this season. If a deal isn't agreed to early in the window, there is a very good chance he could become cup tied for the FA Cup as well. Newcastle have their first FA Cup game scheduled for January 5th. that's only a concern for this season, but it could be as many as 18 games that he'd be unavailable for this spring.
At the end of the day, this would probably be a pretty sensible move for Chelsea to make. It's not a huge sum of money for a club we the resources we have at our disposal, and Ba would certainly fill the largest hole Chelsea have at the moment. He's not Radamel Falcao or Edinson Cavani, but he'd be a sensible purchase without a ton of risk involved. If it can be wrapped up quickly, it would be a great move in my opinion.