Patience needed to see the best of the French defenders

Posted by Marc Duffy

Michael Regan/Getty ImagesMathieu Debuchy has not been able to find his stride since arriving at Newcastle, but there is still hope for him.

Football supporters can be an impatient bunch and Newcastle supporters are no different.

I don't mean in the chase for success! In that regard, the legions of black and whites are amongst the most patient in the world of sport, turning up in the tens of thousands every week to cheer on a team who have delivered no domestic silverware in six decades.

The impatience on Tyneside comes when judging footballers.

A new signing comes in for a sizable financial outlay and thousands believe they should deliver in terms of performances immediately. In a way this is understandable -- these players are professional athletes. They are millionaires. They are expected to deliver something to justify their mansions and luxury cars.

But in reality, this is not how it always works and it can take some players a year or even longer to really find their feet.

Two Newcastle players who have failed to satisfy supporters expectations up until now have been Mathieu Debuchy and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.

When Debuchy arrived at Newcastle in January, people were delighted. He came with a CV that boasted a league title with Lille in France and plenty of French caps. Most supporters only glimpse of him had been at the European Championships in the summer of 2012 when he put in an exceptional performance against England. Expectations were sky-high.

Nine months on Debuchy has struggled. He's put in one or two great performances, but the majority have been poor with the same apparent weaknesses exposed time and time again.

He can be rash in a tackle and positionally he has looked suspect. He's particularly prone to being beaten by long, diagonal balls in behind him. He can also be caught out flying up the right-hand side of the pitch too often -- always a danger when the player ahead of him is usually Hatem Ben Arfa who is never going to offer much cover.

At the moment, Debuchy doesn't look like the upgrade on Danny Simpson that everyone was expecting. But I take you back to Jose Enrique in his first year at the club. More often than not, Enrique was absolutely dreadful as Newcastle crashed to relegation. His performance against Middlesbrough away that year was one of the worst be seen from a Newcastle player. By the time Enrique left the club for Liverpool he was a firm fan favourite. It took time for him to settle into the frantic, physical English game.

Expectations were equally as high when Yanga-Mbiwa came in from Montpelier. Another young French international, Yanga-Mbiwa had captained his team to a French league title.

Yanga-Mbiwa instantly looked uncomfortable at centre half. He still doesn't look comfortable with how little time he is given on the ball on the edge of his own penalty area and this can lead to Newcastle manag Alan Pardew put him out to left back late last season and he looked much more assured knowing that a mistake was far less likely to lead to a goal.

Back at centre half this season and after a positive start and consecutive clean sheets at home to West Ham and Fulham, the weaknesses were exposed when Newcastle conceded six goals in 135 Premier League minutes against Hull and Everton.

Against Everton, Mapou looked like a rabbit in the headlights and was replaced at half-time. He was then quite rightly left out of the team on Saturday for the victory at Cardiff City.

Is Yanga-Mbiwa a hopeless case? I've read Newcastle fans compare him to Jean Alain Boumsong.

I don't think he should be written off just yet. He's young and adapting to life in a new country, playing football in a league that offers a totally different style to what he is used to.

For comparisons -- remember Fabricio Coloccini in his first year? Here is an article that reflected widespread opinion on a player who went on to feature in the 2011-12 Premier League Team of the Year:

Of course, there are no guarantees that Debuchy and Yanga-Mbiwa will emulate the development of Enrique and Coloccini, and there are plenty of examples of players who haven't developed even given time. But I'd hate to see them written off this soon into their Newcastle careers.

Let's just hope that it doesn't take a Newcastle relegation to bring out the best in them.

Twitter: @MarcSDuffy


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