Blanc finally gets his man in Cabaye

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Seven months after being appointed as coach of Paris Saint-Germain, Laurent Blanc has finally got the man who has widely been regarded as Le President's number one transfer target since he took over the French champions last June. Yohan Cabaye, the player Blanc called "the French Xavi" has signed for the capital club on a three-and-a-half-year deal from Premier League side Newcastle United in a reported €20 million deal.

The arrival of the 28-year-old comes at the right time for PSG; as squad depth is set to be tested once again with the suspension of Marco Verratti (becoming something of a six-week custom) and the absence of Adrien Rabiot through injury against Girondins de Bordeaux this week. Cabaye's arrival will enable Blanc to continue playing with a three-man midfield and the opportunity for rotation that the former Lille man will provide should serve the Ligue 1 leaders well domestically and in Europe.

- PSG complete Yohan Cabaye transfer

When can we expect to see Cabaye in a PSG shirt for the first time then?

The French international could be available as early as Friday for the home clash with Bordeaux, assuming that the club are granted clearance by the English FA to play him. Blanc will be keen to throw him straight into the side and, considering the absences of both Verratti and Rabiot, needs Cabaye immediately in order to avoid having to change formation to accommodate the unpredictable Javier Pastore.

Cabaye arrives at a time where Blanc's midfield setup appears settled and is functioning at a high level with Verratti and fellow Italian Thiago Motta thriving alongside the Frenchman's international teammate Blaise Matuidi. The trio have been integral to PSG's impressive change in style from last season's one-dimensional, counter-attacking football under Carlo Ancelotti, to this term's fluid, possession-based game under Blanc.

This system will suit Cabaye perfectly, particularly when handed the deep-lying role that has become Motta's personal property this campaign. That is part of the next question posed, where does he fit among this plethora of stellar talent?

Simple. Cabaye, like Motta, Verratti, Matuidi and Rabiot, will be part of a rotating unit that will enable Blanc to play with three midfielders at all times. Those four have alternated without problems so far this season, with each enjoying more than their fair share of first team football. Yet they still appear to be slightly fatigued by their constant use, particularly since Rabiot's knee injury.

As a general rule of thumb, most big European sides like to have at least two players for every position. Even with Cabaye in the squad, PSG only have five players covering the three starting positions and one of those players will be absent for at least six weeks. Saying that Blanc has unnecessarily bought talent at a premium price is not true; this was a necessary purchase if the team want to continue their push for domestic and European success.

PSG will not win a second consecutive Ligue 1 title, become the most decorated side in the history of the Coupe de la Ligue or better last season's UEFA Champions League quarterfinal showing without being able to hand the players in those key positions the occasional breather.

The three midfielders are perhaps more crucial than any other area in Blanc's preferred formation, aside from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani up front. If anything, Cabaye's arrival is bad news for the players who do not play in any of those three positions and are struggling to cement a place in the starting XI.

Falling into that bracket are Pastore, the enigmatic Argentine playmaker who looks lost anywhere on the pitch except for in his preferred number 10 role and fellow Argentine Ezequiel Lavezzi who has failed to regularly impress on the left of the front three. Brazilian Lucas Moura and Frenchman Jeremy Menez are also yet to truly gain the coach's trust.

All four of those players have, fairly or unfairly, failed to sufficiently impress Blanc to merit a regular place in his ideal lineup and consequently could find their position taken by Cabaye. In doing so, Blanc would be switching formation from his trusted 4-3-3 to a rough 4-4-2 that he has tried on occasions this season in order to accommodate Pastore.

Cabaye has played in the hole for Newcastle, so the real victim of the new arrival could ultimately be Pastore.

El Flaco has rarely impressed, even when given his favoured position on the pitch, and this acquisition perhaps hints at the beginning of a cleansing process at PSG. At present, there are a number of underperforming elements within the squad; some who could still salvage their future in the French capital, but some who are arguably beyond redemption.

Pastore is beginning to fall into the latter category, despite a recent resurgence in form, and could join Menez on the list of likely departures. Lavezzi might not be too far behind, with El Pocho thought to be craving a move back to Italy.

Following Cabaye's arrival, PSG appear to be embarking upon a new direction that is geared towards a greater quota of domestic talent.

Future moves for high-profile French internationals would see the overpaid and underperforming foreign stars that currently swell PSG's ranks dispensed with. The upcoming generation of French prospects are of particular interest, with Juventus' Paul Pogba and Real Sociedad's Antoine Greizmann already touted as possible summer arrivals.

PSG president Nasser Al-Khealifi's admission that one of the main factors contributing towards Cabaye's move is his nationality, also hints at this change of tack.

Cabaye is a good, solid addition to this PSG side and an entirely necessary one. Claims that his World Cup future is now in jeopardy because of this move are likely to be proved wide of the mark. If anything, Moura, Lavezzi, Pastore and Menez's World Cup hopes have just been made more remote.

Blanc believes in Cabaye and trusts him implicitly, while his being granted this transfer also demonstrates the greater level of faith in the French tactician than at the start of the season when his appointment was viewed as a statement of non-ambition by many.

However, midfield is not the only area of the squad that needs strengthening at present. The team are crying out for cover at right-back ahead of the remainder of the season, with time still left in this month's transfer window.


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