Newcastle's French revolution

Posted by Martin Laurence (

Ian Horrocks/Newcastle United/Getty ImagesMapou Yanga-Mbiwa is one of several new arrivals to Newcastle from Ligue 1.

Picture the scene. It's March 2006 and Alan Pardew is having his say on Arsenal having fielded an entire starting XI without a single Englishman:

"It's important that top clubs don't lose sight of the fact that it's the English Premier League and English players should be involved."

Fast-forward seven years and it appears the former West Ham manager, now at Newcastle, has had a drastic change of heart. The Magpies plundering of Ligue 1 talent shows no signs of abating with the club keen to have completed deals for as many as five Frenchman before February and having narrowly failed add Loic Remy to that tally.

If the club were to seal the signatures of Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (Montpellier), Moussa Sissoko (Toulouse) and Massadio Haidara (Nancy), joining Debuchy and Gouffran this month, they will have 11 French players on their books.

Much has been made of Newcastle's superb scouting network across the channel, though it seems that - Remy aside - they go relatively unchallenged for their targets and in turn can drive down a price. While tapping into an inexplicably overlooked market is laudable, one can only speculate as to how it will affect the dressing room for the players, now becoming a minority, that don't hail from France.

Indeed, the best XI of the strugglers may well be void of a single British player, depending on the uncertain future of captain Fabricio Coloccini, so what would the Pardew of 2006 say to himself now?

He'd probably say 'desperate times call for desperate measures'. The club needs good value from their purchases and it's near-impossible to find on home soil. The fact is that you get more bang for your buck on the continent, so what will the prospective new signings add.

In Mathieu Debuchy they've already captured France's first choice right-back, favoured over Bacary Sagna, and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa is also tipped for greater things on the international front than Sagna's Arsenal team-mate, Laurent Koscielny.

The Montpellier captain has the sixth best statistical rating from WhoScored of any player in the French top-flight, and the best of any defender. Impressive in possession, Yanga-Mbiwa often looks to carry the ball out of defence, completing an impressive 1.3 dribbles per game. While his defensive averages of 2.1 tackles and 2.8 interceptions are both up on those of Mike Williamson, he does the dirty work better than Coloccini, with 1.5 aerial duels won per game and 7.8 clearances on average.

His 45.3 passes per game is way up on that of Coloccini (33.8) and Williamson (30.3), which, allied with his ability to carry the ball forward, may suggest that Newcastle will look to play out from the back more, having averaged the most long balls per game by some distance in the Premier League - 73.

The fact that fellow target and left-back Massadio Haidara is the only defender in Ligue 1 to have completed more dribbles than Yanga-Mbiwa is also worth noting when looking at the type of player the club are looking towards. At just 20 Haidara very much looks like one for the future, though he has cemented his place in the Nancy side and his impressive defensive figures of 3 per game for both tackles and interceptions are in advance of those of Davide Santon (2.3 and 1.7).

Moussa Sissoko is a name that has been around in Ligue 1 for some time, though the midfielder is still only 23. Tipped early on in his career as the next Michael Essien, Sissoko has failed to live up to his potential in recent seasons, though five caps for Les Bleus is enough to indicate that he is still highly thought of in France. A real box-to-box midfielder, Sissoko is perhaps already in the mould of the likes of Cabaye and Anita at the club, with his figures for shots (1), key passes (1), dribbles (1.2) and tackles (1.6) per game all fairly modest.

With Gouffran brought in as competition for Papiss Cisse, the chances of the likes of Sammy Ameobi and Nile Ranger getting much game time up front look slim. With Haidara's potential move adding to competition for Shane Ferguson, Simpson ousted by Debuchy and Taylor and Perch coming under pressure from Yanga-Mbiwa, the French revolution is in full swing in the north-east.

*All stats courtesy of

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