By Craig Nicholson
Three Newcastle United players travelled to Poland & Ukraine with their respective countries for the European Championship, but only Frenchman Yohan Cabaye has played a significant part for his country.
Tim Krul didn’t play a minute of football in the Netherland’s woeful performance at the tournament and Hatem Ben Arfa, who once looked a sure bet to be in Laurent Blanc’s first team plans, has notched up just 8 minutes against England so far.
Before Laurent Blanc’s appointment as national coach of France, Cabaye was relatively unknown in the International circles, but since his arrival, the former Lille man has managed 12 starts and 4 substitute appearances, solidifying himself as a regular starter.
This run in the team certainly won’t change based on his recent Euro 2012 performances so far. Cabaye has produced two scintillating performances for France in the competition, making Les Bleus tick from midfield and getting his first International goal against the Ukraine last week.
For the Toon last season, Cabaye was nothing short of a sensation. He didn’t just rank up more tackles than any player in the Premier League, but was also the leading chance creator, assister and attacking-third pass producer at the club. He has now taken his club form on to the International stage. No wonder David Ginola is impressed.
NUFC_Stats looked into the numbers behind Yohan’s two performances at Euro 2012 and compared his role for France to his duties at Newcastle.
In the Formation
Cabaye has been situated on the right side of a midfield three for France at the Euro 2012, a position he knows well from the latter stages of the Premier League season at Newcastle United.
Similarly, he is playing alongside a holding midfielder. At NUFC, Cheick Tiote offers protection to those playing behind and in the France team it is Alou Diarra. This gives Cabaye licence to play higher up the field and link play to the forward trio on a regular basis.
In Tiote’s absence and when Newcastle played their initial 4-4-2, Cabaye was restricted in his advancement and although he can play the holding role well, Newcastle weren’t getting the best out of their play-maker. Blanc has obviously recognised this and employed Cabaye as the serviceman for the likes of Ribery, Nasri and Benzema.
A lot of Cabaye’s play at Euro 2012 has been quick, fluent one/two touch play, with regular short passing into the forwards from short distances (see passing graphic) or ‘punching’ into feet early.
Notice the depth of Cabaye’s average position in the tournament so far and his restriction to the middle third. We see that Cabaye has slightly more attacking duties against England, mainly due to England’s inability to exploit the space in midfield (notice how deep France’s centre half partnership played)? However, against Ukraine, it was very much a defensive midfield partnership between Cabaye and Diarra.
On the Ball
Cabaye has amassed 109 passes in the tournament so far with an impressive 89% success rate, an 8.6% lift on his Premier League season data. The graphic above shows the origin of those passes, highlighting how he has remained disciplined in his central role, helping Diarra out as holder at times and doing most of his work for France in the middle third – again, a contrast to his NUFC performances where most of his work (certainly in the later stages of the season) took place in the attacking third.
That is backed up by the fact that just 30 of those 109 passes took place in the final third at Euro 2012 and he has managed to create just one chance in his two games so far. He has produced six shots, five of which have come from outside the penalty area – the only shot inside the area resulted in a goal.
Cabaye is yet to produce a single cross in the competition and a single dribble (take on). He’s also yet to take a set piece with likes of Ribery and Nasri taking over those duties. Laurent Blanc isn’t using Cabaye in the way NUFC do, but who can blame him with the disposal they have in attack. Instead, his job is to get on the ball and get it quickly to the players Blanc believes will hurt teams in attack.
Off the Ball
As aforementioned, Cabaye completed more tackles than anyone in the Premier League last season (although he played more games than most and five players made more tackles per game), showing his more ‘gritty’ nature as a midfielder. He’s also 12th on the most interceptions per game list and 7th in the division for dribbles stopped per game.
He can play a more defensive midfield role. In the Euro’s so far, he has managed to make four successful tackles from six attempted, five interceptions, one clearance and zero aerial duel wins from none attempted.
It’s obviously very early in the tournament to make too much of the statistics, especially when compared to a 38 game Premier League season, but there are areas that make interesting reading.
From an NUFC point of view, fans should be overjoyed that one of their own is performing so well at a major tournament (although there will be those worried that he’s in the limelight!).
Yohan Cabaye has been outstanding for Newcastle in a very tough league and is now showing his worth France. When was the last time Newcastle could boast of such midfield talent as Cabaye and Tiote The days of Rob Lee and Gary Speed jump to forefront of ones mind.
Author: Craig Nicholson is a lifelong Toon fan from Consett, County Durham. He runs NUFC_Stats on Twitter and is a keen follower of the game from a statistical point of view. His favourite NUFC memory is the 5-0 win over Manchester United.