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SUNDAY SPECIAL: Yohan Cabaye: A terrible demise

After returning to French football back in January, many expected Yohan Cabaye to be an excellent signing for Paris Saint Germain and to add to an already strong central midfield. However, the former Newcastle man is yet to find any real form and with others starting to surpass him, is he at risk of getting forgotten about?

Rewind back to 2011, Cabaye was on top of the world as an integral part of Lille’s impressive double-winning side and showed qualities that would make him a future national team mainstay. He joined Newcastle United in that summer for a fee believed to be around £4.3million, it was never disclosed, but it was a terrific bargain for a player that many had expected would join a Champions League team.

Thus began a terrific spell in England where he gained many admirers for his vision and creativity in the middle of the park. He helped them finish an impressive 5th in his first season, combining spectacularly with players like Demba Ba and Papiss Cissé, the Frenchman really turned around a Newcastle team previously languishing in mid-table mediocrity.

His second season was even better, with him scoring six in 26 games as he continued to adapt to the English game and impressed despite his injury problems and the club’s indifferent form that saw them finish 16th. In that summer, rumours of a bid from Arsenal made the rounds but they were rejected by Magpies boss Alan Pardew, feeling that they were not sufficient for such an integral player despite Cabaye wanting European football.

To his credit, he kept his head down and was terrific again whilst keeping fit, scoring seven in 19 games before PSG came calling. Their initial bid was rejected with the French giants seemingly waiting to see if they could tempt Cabaye to rebel and it half worked, it unsettled him but Newcastle stayed firm until a bid rising to €20million was agreed.

At the time, he was also a big part of the national set-up and was a regular within a strong and improving midfield. His creativity was seen as something that would unlock the door of most international outfits, he is still seen as a big part of Les Bleus’ not only for the World Cup but also for the upcoming European Championships in France. Didier Deschamps has a soft spot for the player, but how long before that good will runs out?

In his first half-season with the Parisians, he made 21 appearances with 11 of those coming from off the bench in all competitions. He managed just one goal, in the Champions League, and three assists, two in Ligue 1, but it was seen as a period of him bedding in with a big team. However, after a minor injury kept him out the first few games of the season, he came back where his position within the team was under threat.

Javier Pastore had been superb with both Cabaye and Matuidi out, which gave manager Laurent Blanc a selection headache upon their return. He decided, and rightly so, that his starting midfielder would be Thiago Motta in the holding role with Marco Verratti and Matuidi in front of him. Yohan Cabaye has had to contend with warming the bench as Javier Pastore has redefined himself in this PSG team- something Cabaye must desperately seek to do as well.

He has not been as productive as he was before, he managed a fortunate, bobbling goal against Lens but has not registered an assist so far this season and looks to have lost confidence to the point where he is gifting the opposition the ball far too often. He has also had some petulance, he got two yellows against Evian that were very poor and the second challenge was arguably a red card offence on its own. It typified his frustrating performances and he has yet to really recover.

Cabaye’s season so far was personified by his performance last weekend against Lorient. Twice he was at fault for giving the ball away in his own half, putting his defence under pressure and can be blamed for two mistakes that led to their goal. He rushes in to his tackle that fails to stop the counter and when he does get back, he allows Raphael Guerreiro to get in behind him as he is attracted to the ball which leads to the young left-back scoring.

It got worse later on, after not impressing he was replaced by Verratti who almost immediately played a fantastic defence-splitting pass to assist Jean-Christophe Bahebeck in the winning goal. He was given a chance in the team with the Champions League in mind and he failed to deliver convincingly, a running theme since he joined PSG and now he is looking at players in front of him rather than back at those behind him.

Despite his problems, the question of whether he will remain at PSG was much easier to answer at the start of the season, which would be unless a world class player like Paul Pogba became available then Cabaye will be needed for the forthcoming season, despite the recent contract extension of Adrien Rabiot. PSG have every intention of winning as much silverware as possible and they can only do that with a considerable squad. However, now that Pastore has found himself again and Adrien Rabiot has committed his future to the club and expects to be played, his chances of game time are under threat.

He needs to react quickly or else he will be seen as a failure at the capital club and could even be moved on by the board. He is in for a real fight for his PSG career should he continue to struggle. He certainly has the talent and we have seen small flashes so far this season, he made the Get French Football News Ligue 1 Team of the Week recently, but he desperately needs to produce something special when he next gets the opportunity in order to spark his form into life, or else he faces falling deeper into the surrounding hole that is slowly engulfing him.

N.S.

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