There is a lot of negativity surrounding Newcastle United and their prospects for avoiding relegation. This is for good reason as the team have lost 8 matches in a row and are facing yet another match with two of their six senior squad defenders suspended and a further two injured. It's easy to get caught up in this. I know I have. If we take a step back and take a more forest view than tree view, there just might be hope.
Newcastle United have not won a match since February 28, with the first match of the current losing streak falling on March 4, the 1-0 loss to Manchester United. That one particular loss doesn't necessarily weigh particularly heavily one way or the other. We lose to the Red Devils all the time. The loss that weighed most heavily was a sub-loss, if you will, from that Man U match. You may recall that this was the match that saw Papiss Cisse and Jonny Evans receive matching long-term bans for spitting at each other.
Since Cisse's suspension, Newcastle United have only scored 5 times in their 8 matches since and have been shut out in four of those matches. We have known for some time that Emmanuel Riviere is severely lacking in his quest to be even a passable Premier League striker. We have known that Working Class John Carver™ is not equipped to use Ayoze Perez to the best possible effect and we further know that Ayoze Perez, for all of the flashes he has shown this season, is a step or two away from being that level of Premier League contributor. Of course we were going to struggle to score.
Papiss Cisse is a competent Premier League striker at worst and a blazing talent at his brightest. The truth with him certainly lies somewhere between his first half season when seemingly every touch he had of the ball would fly into the net, no matter where that touch was on the pitch and the months in which he seemingly couldn't buy a goal. This year's returns suggest that he lies somewhere on the better end of that scale than the worse. His 11 goals in 19 appearances still see him tied for the seventh-highest tally in the Premier League (somewhere around 11th if you're counting individual goal scorers) even though he has missed nearly half of the season due to this latest suspension, injuries and the Africa Cup of Nations which somehow inexplicably seems to be held 6 times every year.
During his suspension, Papiss Cisse has had a screw removed from his kneecap, an injury that was said to be having a negative effect on his ability to play freely. It is the reason (so it is said now) that Alan Pardew was using Cisse strictly as a substitute early in the season. There is a lot of doom-saying regarding Cisse's possible return this season – John Carver has said the Senegalese may not return this season – but he has returned to training and has done some running with the training staff. Carver has also been quoted as saying he may have to employ the striker in what amounts to the same way as Pardew had done, which may just be enough if the club can figure out how to defend a set piece well enough to give him a chance to steal a late point or victory in the grandest of Pardew traditions.
Help us, Papiss Demba Cisse. You're our only hope.