Cabaye calls Toon for French connection

Newcastle's new breed of Gallic warriors made a big impact on Tuesday, but WhoScored.com's Martin Laurence says Yohan Cabaye remains top dog.

Last Updated: 30/01/13 at 12:56 Post Comment

Yohan Cabaye: 'L'homme principal' for Newcastle

Yohan Cabaye: 'L'homme principal' for Newcastle

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Newcastle's French revolution was strengthened on Tuesday night after three new Ligue 1 signings made debuts for the club in the vital 2-1 Premier League win over Aston Villa at Villa Park.

The victory was their first away from home in all competitions this season, spanning over 17 matches, and put distance between themselves and the chasing pack.

Indeed, the main difference between Newcastle and the other sides at the bottom in this transfer window seems to be the Magpies' readiness to invest and ability to attract a certain quality of player.

The fact that the club already had five Frenchmen on their books prior to this window will certainly have helped assure the new signings of their ability to settle in at St James' Park. However, the relative ease with which the likes of Moussa Sissoko, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Yoan Gouffran were snapped up is somewhat mysterious.

In bringing first-choice France right-back Mathieu Debuchy to the club, another who never looked like going anywhere other than the North East, and also hot prospect full-back Massadio Haidara, Newcastle now have a far stronger squad than those below them.

The Magpies' scouting network across the channel has been lauded for identifying such talents, but these players are well renowned on the continent. Yanga-Mbiwa is now a regular in the France squad and is tipped by many in his homeland to become one of the nation's first-choice centre-backs. He's only 23 but captained Montpellier to a shock title last season. Since August 2009 - when Yanga-Mbiwa was just 20 years old - only Daniel Congre has played more minutes of Ligue 1 football than him (not counting goalkeepers). Hardly a player slipping under the radar.

Though he didn't start at Villa Park on Tuesday night, the defender is likely to partner Fabricio Coloccini once he adjusts to the English game. A look at the match centre from the Aston Villa-Newcastle game on WhoScored shows he managed to complete a tackle, an interception and two clearances in just 10 minutes of playing time on his debut, and with averages of 2.1, 2.8 and 7.8 for the same stats respectively in Ligue 1 this season, he will be a real asset.

One man that has already made his mark on the fans, and certainly manager Alan Pardew, is Sissoko, whose new manager claimed that had he not been playing on Tuesday night, Newcastle wouldn't have won the game. His inch-perfect slide rule pass was the key to breaking the deadlock and earned him an assist in the black and white of Newcastle after just 19 minutes. Although he set up another chance on the night, his chance creation isn't something that the fans should expect on a particularly regular basis though.

Prior to Tuesday, the central midfielder had made just one assist in his previous 39 games for Toulouse. The 23-year-old did impress on his debut, though he probably won't play a more favourable central midfield partnership than Ashley Westwood and Barry Bannan in terms of physical presence, and is a player who needs to make that next step.

Tipped for big things as a youngster, Sissoko's progression over the last two seasons has been a little disappointing. With average statistics across the board in Ligue 1 this season, including one shot, 1.2 key passes and 1.6 tackles per game, Newcastle will hope to see more of the same from Tuesday night's performance in a potentially advanced role in the Premier League.

The third and final player to make their debut in midweek, drafted into the line-up due to a late injury to compatriot Sylvain Marveaux, was former Bordeaux hitman Gouffran, and though the forward may have built up less of a name for himself abroad, at well under £1million it seems wages would be the only issue to perturb interest from elsewhere.

In terms of goalscorers in Ligue 1, only two have netted more since the beginning of last season than Gouffran's 22 (Bafetimbi Gomis with 25 and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with 24). Clearly, again, the 26-year-old is far from an unknown entity and though he had just one shot on his debut, he will hope to come into competition for the central striker role, having moved there from the wing in recent seasons for his former club.

While all of Newcastle's newcomers made solid starts, it was another Frenchman who proved to be the match-winner, and if any of the January recruits can contribute half of what Yohan Cabaye has since joining the club last summer, they will win over the fans with ease. The former Lille man was another absolute bargain, having arguably been the French outfit's strongest player outside of Eden Hazard in their title-winning 2010/11 campaign.

His control and volley for Newcastle's second at Villa summed up his ability and technique, and marked his eighth Premier League goal in the shirt. With five of said strikes coming from outside the box, no player has netted more from range than the midfielder since he made the move to England, and while many counterparts have since joined him from Ligue 1, Cabaye remains l'homme principal at St. James' Park.

All stats courtesy of WhoScored.com. Follow Martin Laurence on Twitter at @martinlaurence7.

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