Yet again, Newcastle's cultured French midfielder Yohan Cabaye showed his worth to the team as the Magpies beat West Ham 3-1 at Upton Park on Saturday afternoon.
Speculation surrounding Cabaye's future with the Tyneside club has been almost constant since his fantastic first season in England in 2011-12 and performances like that at West Ham will only add to his potential suitors.
In the build up to the game I was reading some stats on the @NUFC_data twitter account:
Yohan Cabaye has had more shots on target in the PL this season (32) than Ravel Morrison, Mark Noble & Kevin Nolan combined (30). #NUFC— NUFC Stats & Data (@NUFC_data) January 17, 2014
Cabaye has scored 3 times from outside the box in the PL this season, the same number as the entire West Ham side combined. #NUFC— NUFC Stats & Data (@NUFC_data) January 18, 2014
The frequency with which he shoots is a measure of the confidence he is playing with at the moment. After a tough time last season, he is back to his best.
He opened the scoring for Newcastle on Saturday, slotting the ball calmly into the corner of the net after some great build up play from Yoan Gouffran. It was Cabaye's sixth goal of the season and his fourth away from St James' Park. It was also Newcastle's first league goal in just under five hours of football.
- Brewin: Three Things - West Ham v Newcastle
Less than ten minutes after that, he sent Moussa Sissoko clear with a fantastic through ball; his French international midfield partner really should have scored.
Cabaye linked up brilliantly throughout the game with his central midfield partners Cheick Tiote and Vurnon Anita. The trio work very well together with their respective skills complementing one another and it was only after Pardew bizarrely opted to remove Anita that Cabaye's game dipped.
Newcastle completely dominated the Hammers for 44 minutes, racing into a two-goal lead, but when Carlton Cole (or should I say a Mike Williamson own goal) pulled one back with the last kick of the half after some woeful defending, the home side's spirits rose. The jeers from the Upton Park terraces turned into cheers.
There is a feeling that Newcastle struggle to perform in both halves under Pardew and that looked to be the case once again as West Ham upped their tempo in the second half. As ever, when confronted by this type of situation Pardew opted to take off Anita (who was exceptional) and bring on Shola Ameobi and the obvious style of play that follows.
The home side really should have equalised. Carlton Cole missed an unbelievable chance from seven yards, only to see his effort topped by substitute Andy Carroll, who missed one of the sitters of the season. Newcastle rode their luck and only sealed the game right at the death; again it was thanks to that man Cabaye.
As stoppage time ticked on, Newcastle won a free kick on the corner of the 18 yard box. Cabaye whipped the ball over the wall and West Ham goalkeeper Adrian could only tip the ball off his post and into the net. This was Cabaye's seventh goal and already his best return in a season for Newcastle.
Any potential suitors will have been very impressed, but it is vital for Newcastle that they hold on to Cabaye at least until the summer, despite the financial implications. If Newcastle cash in now they'd command a significantly higher transfer fee than in July when, with less than two years remaining on his contract and at 28-years-old, Cabaye will be able to buy out his own remaining contract and move freely.
I have a feeling he will stay. It is a World Cup year, he's settled and playing great football. Why jeopardise all of that for a move?
As for West Ham, their troubles continue and they remain in the bottom three.
I have a soft spot for West Ham, but not Sam Allardyce. The former Bolton boss was a disaster as Newcastle manager and his short reign set the club back years. Newcastle United and their fans were widely criticised by the media at the time, who claimed that Newcastle would never have been relegated had Allardyce remained.
Well it looks like this time he may have been found out. He can bemoan West Ham's injuries, but it was him who asked the board to spend £17 million on an injured Carroll.
His spell on Tyneside produced the worst football I've ever watched, so it is nice to see Newcastle triumph against Allardyce.