Newcastle resident Ronan Quinn on one of the eleven that may start versus the States
With the likes of Andy Carroll, Joey Barton, Kevin Nolan and José Enrique all sold since January, many worried about Newcastle’s prospects of survival in the Premier League. As it happens, Newcastle United are sitting third above the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. And as the USMNT approach their game against France this week, my focus is on one of the central figures of Alan Pardew’s French revolution, Yohan Cabaye.
Replacing any of the aforementioned players was going to be a tough job for anyone, as they were all stars of a successful season for the North-East club last year. Particularly tricky, was the task facing Cabaye who was indirectly replacing captain Kevin Nolan, scorer of a a fantastic 12 goals from midfield and a superb partner for the industrious bulldozer, Cheik Tiote.
Cabaye moved from French champions Lille in the summer for a fee of around 4 million pounds, after his most successful season in his homeland, certianly in terms of winning trophies with his club. However, it was the previous season which captured the eye of scouts worldwide when he grabbed 15 goals and 11 assists from a slighter higher position on the field than Newcastle fans will be used to seeing him.
Indeed with Newcastle, Cabaye has been mainly deployed as a deep lying playmaker beside the bustling Tiote, in a position where he can distribute the ball to the wings and the strikers with pinpoint accuracy. His passing his perhaps his most famous weapon, a result Cabaye states reflects his love as a youngster for the style of David Beckham. Cabaye’s game however, is not limited to starting attacks and indeed defensive responsibility is shared almost equally with Tiote, as Cabaye does not lack for bite in the tackle. Add to this his recent forays forward into the box which culminated in a beautiful late winning goal against Wigan and Newcastle’s fans are starting to see a very well rounded midfield player.
One might argue his first goal was a long time in coming for the Magpies, as many shots from range throughout the previous games in the season had been rattling the crossbar, or forcing the opposition keeper into spectacular saves from long distance. The floodgates appear to have opened now though, with an equally excellent goal from 30 yards coming against Blackburn Rovers.
Another strength of the Frenchman, is his ability on set pieces, as seen with the goal against Blackburn which came from a free-kick. This is something which Newcastle fans again may not have seen much of, as Ryan Taylor is something of a specialist as well. However, the Toon Army have seen corner kicks delivered with enough precision that he has recorded three assists from them so far this season.
The new Newcastle star has started to see more action for France in recent months, starting in central midfield for the last three, massively important European 2012 qualifiers. This reflects a change in France’s style since the appointment if Laurent Blanc in 2010 following a dismal World Cup. Since that time, France have leaned away from the more physical, experienced players who had served the country so well and moved to a younger, more technical team building around the likes of Samir Nasri, a system which appears to suit Cabaye’s style perfectly.
For those of you familiar with line “he couldn’t do it on a wet, windy weeknight at Stoke”, mostly used to deride an extremely talented foreign player outside the Premier League (often unbelievably, Messi) you will be happy to know that Cabaye put in a completely competent performance in Newcastle’s 3-1 at the Britannia Stadium last Monday, which I guess proves to a certain extent the steel behind his play.
All in all, should Yohan Cabaye start against the USMNT on Friday fans can look forward to seeing an elegant player who likes getting on the ball as much as possible, and distributing usefully with possession. He can be effective on both sides of the ball with a tough tackle, as well as carrying a real goal threat.