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Quite why Alan Pardew was given an eight-year contract at Newcastle is beyond the best of us. Even considering the Magpies' fifth-placed finish in 2012 or the fact that it may have only been done so openly in the hope of exuding the image of stability, Mike Ashley's decision looks wholly misguided after last season's showing.
Even when he was appointed, few considered Pardew capable of doing much better than his predecessor Chris Hughton, who almost faultlessly guided them back into the Premier League before being rather harshly dismissed. That Pardew then followed up a mid-table finish with European qualification was not so much recognition of his managerial abilities, but rather the astuteness with which Ashley and his colleagues conducted their business, and the resultant riches made available to the coach.
Having recouped £35m from the sale of Andy Carroll to Liverpool, the likes of Papiss Demba Cisse, Demba Ba and Davide Santon were recruited - a hefty wage budget most certainly playing a part in securing those signatures. Newcastle's scouts were praised - erroneously - with having discovered talents from leagues that others weren't aware of. The reality of the situation was, however, that they had signed one of the Bundesliga's top scorers in Cisse, an Inter Milan youth prospect in Santon and a relatively proven Premier League goalscorer in Ba. Arguably their best signing of the Pardew era was that of Yohan Cabaye - a regular for Lille in their title-winning season and yet somehow they got him for just £5m. Now, after the Magpies' disappointing season, he is being linked with a move to Champions Manchester United, and as WhoScored.com tell us, while losing him would be a huge blow to Pardew's hopes of seeing out the remainder of his contract, he would be a great fit at Old Trafford.
Newcastle's meagre 41 points this season was only just sufficient to keep them in the Premier League and Cabaye's absence through injury so nearly sent them back down to the Championship. In fact, the Toon Army's only two wins from the 13 Premier League matches Cabaye didn't start all season came at home to eventually relegated Wigan and QPR, while the only other of those 13 games in which they avoided defeat were away at Norwich and Reading. Without their vice-captain in the starting line-up, Newcastle conceded an average of 2.15 goals per Premier League game this season, compared to 1.6 per game with him. If it wasn't plainly obvious from their lack of cohesion and fluency of passing when without the Frenchman, it is even more so in the ease with which opponents slice them open.
More widely hailed for his passing ability - not to be discounted of course - Cabaye is hugely important in breaking up attacks in front of the defence. He led Newcastle's players in terms of tackles and interceptions per game last season, making a total of 5.2 per game, as can be seen on WhoScored.com's team page for Newcastle. What is more, this tally ranks him ninth amongst Premier League central midfielders and also higher than any Manchester United player.
Michael Carrick does his fair share of breaking up play, making 2.3 tackles and 2.1 interceptions per game this past season. Granted, that these are down on Cabaye's total owes more to the fact that United have to win back possession less often than Newcastle, but interestingly, no other United central midfielder contributes significantly in these statistics. You have to look down to eighth in the squad for the next most frequent central midfield tackler - and that is the infamously poorly timed Paul Scholes (1.7) - or 13th for the next highest in terms of interceptions per game (Tom Cleverley - 0.7). Incidentally, the 43 goals the Red Devils conceded this season was their worst defensive display since the 2001/02 season, when they shipped 45 goals and finished third.
Furthermore, whilst going on to claim the title, United allowed their opponents 489 shots this season, a tally higher than seven of the teams that finished below them and only marginally fewer than Newcastle (511). A great deal of United's defensive frailty will be because of a lack of protection in front of the back four alongside Carrick, and with no fewer than eight players having lined up in defensive or central midfield for Sir Alex Ferguson, obviously he was unclear of his best options in that role. An addition to those ranks wouldn't go amiss.
Whilst United's riches in attack mean there is little need for goals from other parts of the pitch, the fact that players starting in defensive or central midfield contributed only seven goals between them all season is rather unimpressive. Cabaye alone, meanwhile, managed six in just 25 starts for a team who scored 41 goals fewer than the champions.
Yohan Cabaye's reputation is already built, of that there is little doubt. He regularly starts for his national side and should be playing for a team that plays in Europe and isn't managed by Alan Pardew. It is most certainly time for him to move on to bigger and better things.
Ali Tweedale - follow him on Twitter
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.