Signed from French champions Lille for a reported fee of £4.3m in the summer – this could be one of Newcastle’s best signings for a long time. A now established player for the French national team under the new leadership of Laurent Blanc, his creativity, vision and passing will hope to fill the void that Joey Barton vacated.
Last year for Lille in their championship winning season, he played 34 games, scoring 2 goals and proving 9 assists in the process. More impressively, he provided more assists and had a higher shot per game ratio, than the highly rated Eden Hazard.
After a disrupted pre-season (refused visa for US tour, trained with reserves, Fiorentina match abandoned due to weather) and also a tough start to the league campaign – Arsenal at home and Sunderland away – our home match against Fulham saw his best game yet in a black and white shirt. As shown from the Guardian chalkboards below, he was able to get on the ball more often than his first two games and his pass completion in the Fulham match was the highest of the season so far.
His vision and range of passing is similar to Joey Barton’s, with the ability to pass long and in behind the opposition’s defence for our attackers to run onto. He has already provided a quarter (5/20) of our team’s chances, which averages out to 1.67 chances per game – emphasising his qualities as a creative midfielder and his importance to the team.
Adding to the creative side of Cabaye, he also got the physical attributes and tenacious nature in him to help alongside Cheik Tiote, something that was lacking last season. Although Nolan provided a lot going forward with his goals, he lacked the fitness to help out in central midfield, often leaving Tiote to protect the back four by himself. Cabaye has an early season success average of 69% in 50/50 ground duels, surpassing the very poor 49% average for the whole of the Newcastle team. His tackling is also at a reasonable 69% success rate.
Although he has yet to score for Newcastle, he definitely has an eye for goal – having at least one attempt at goal in each game so far, including the Carling Cup fixture against Scunthorpe. Cabaye was unlucky not to score against Arsenal, after linking well with Obertan in the box, only for the ball to get stuck under his feet and a weak shot resulted. His long range shooting has also been impressive as well, stinging the hands of Mignolet in our derby game against Sunderland and taking a long range effort that Schwarzer saved, which then led to Leon Best’s goal against Fulham. With the arrival of Davide Santon replacing Ryan Taylor at left back, we could see Cabaye being first choice for free kicks – he was a set piece specialist for Lille, taking corners, free kicks and penalties.
I personally think we’ve signed a gem in Yohan Cabaye. A 25 year old player, who was an integral part of a league winning team and is also a regular for the national team at a snip at £4.3 million. Other English players would have gone for four times that amount. Even though it is early in the season, he has already shown to be able to adapt physically to the Premier League and also has the ability to create chances for the rest of the team and I think it’ll be a matter of time before he scores his first goal for Newcastle. Dovetailed with the combative Cheik Tiote in the centre of midfield, this midfield duo could form a profitable partnership for Newcastle United.