Yohan Cabaye is one of the Premier League‘s most sought-after transfer properties this January, following an incredible first half of the season for Newcastle. It remains to be seen whether any of his many suitors, including Arsenal, Manchester United and PSG, will take the reported £22million bait before the end of the month. But either way, the 28 year-old has proved this term that he’s destined for a higher calling than the Magpies – no offence Toon fans.
To suggest the Frenchman wasn’t highly thought of before the current campaign would be untrue. Arsenal launched an ill-fated £12million bid for Cabaye back in the summer, suggesting they felt that after two years at Newcastle, he was ready to handle life at a major club.
But they resisted the Magpies’ valuation of £20million, which, at the time, would have broken the Gunners’ record transfer fee by a few million.
Bizarrely however, I’d suggest another playmaking midfielder is the last thing the Premier League table-toppers need right now, and although Arsenal are the calibre of club I believe Cabaye is more than capable of playing for, his contribution would go relatively unnoticed at the Emirates.
That being said, for £20million, or £22million to take the player on midseason according to the tabloids, the France international remains an absolute steal. A record of 17 goals and 15 assists in 79 Premier League appearances is an unbelievable return for a deep-lying midfielder, even if a significant proportion of his output is currently being sourced from dead-ball situations.
That’s only 15 goals and one assist less than Yaya Toure, who has made 30 more Premier League outings than the Magpies star in a far more accommodating Manchester City side. It’s also just two goals less than Steven Gerrard in the last three years, despite the England international’s willingness to shoot from any range and any angle.
Not that output is the only impressive part of Cabaye’s game. This season he’s averaged 2.4 tackles and 2.4 interceptions per match, showing that the 5 foot 9 midfielder is more than competent when it comes to defensive contribution and is by no means a ‘luxury’ player, whilst in possession, he’s made 33 key passes in 17 Premier League starts, illustrating his core ability to unlock opposition defences with telling balls.
But as previously stated, Cabaye’s ability has been known for some time. The difference this season however has been in the great versatility and flexibility he’s shown by changing and modifying his role into the Magpies’ No.10.
Traditionally considered a playmaker of the more Miralem Pjanic, Luka Modric or Paul Scholes variety, finding pockets of space from deep and producing a mix-ranged passing game, Alan Pardew has fielded Cabaye at the tip of midfield of six occasions this season and in return the Frenchman has provided four goals from his new role, including a stunning brace against West Ham at the weekend.
Some would argue it could be a case of a big fish asserting his dominance in a small pond, and transitioning to the ocean of a major club could see Cabaye eaten alive by a shark that won’t even notice the 28 year-old inadvertently swimming down his predatory gullet.
Rather, I’d argue the France international has been a whale the Newcastle puddle for some time.
There’s been an obvious correlation between Newcastle’s league standing and the midfielder’s fitness over the last three years; upon his first campaign in England, in which Cabaye made34 league appearances, the Magpies finished in fifth, and with their talisman operating at full throttle again this term, they possess an outside chance of another continental qualification, currently sitting in eighth place in the English table.
But last year, when Cabaye spent a significant chunk of the season sidelined through injury, missing from November to February due to groin surgery, Newcastle’s form decisively tanked, recording 19 league defeats and lucky to finish the campaign with their top flight status intact. In my opinion, that’s no coincidence and is a fantastic testament to Cabaye’s vitality on Tyneside. No wonder the Magpies few him as a player worth in excess of £20million, which will be their biggest sale since Andy Carroll in 2011.
Of course, the other factor for major clubs to consider before making an acquisition is personality. Back in the summer, Cabaye’s professionalism was tested, as Alan Pardew informed reporters his ‘head had been turned’ by the Gunners’ transfer interest. It seemed Cabaye was set for six months of sulking at the Magpies’ training ground, driving down his value until another club snapped him up in January for a fee that didn’t justify his abilities or facilitate for the rupture his departure could have at St. James’s Park.
But refraining from playing the transfer market to his advantage rather than the beautiful game itself, Cabaye has used his actions on the pitch to prove to his suitors that he’s worth the £20million Newcastle have been asking for, producing the most prominent form of his Premier League career to date. If there was ever any doubt over what quality bracket the Frenchman belongs to, and whether or not he has the temperament or drive to up his game to the next level, surely this season, following a disruptive end to the summer window, is all the evidence one needs.
Producing free kicks that verge upon artistry, long-range goals that leave one foaming at the mouth, donning a mixed passing game so intelligently orchestrating in its destructive efficiency and a level of work-rate and anticipation out of possession we’d more frequently associate with a natural ball-winner, now demonstrating he’s capable of any role required of him in the middle of the park including at the attacking pivot of the midfield, and a player who has consistently proved himself over three years in the Premier League – what more could a major club want this January for a mere £20million?
David Moyes, Laurent Blanc, Tim Sherwood, Arsene Wenger, Brendan Rodgers – it’s time for Cabaye to answer his higher calling.