The January window has brought a lot of talent into the English Premier League, which is the story year after year. But instead of the regulars like Manchester City and Chelsea tapping in to the abundant talent around the world, we have a new subscriber to the newsletter, which is mostly in French. Newcastle United have upped the ante by digging deep and replacing almost half of their first team, and their star players.
Demba Ba, Newcastle’s star signing who took the club’s season goal tally to a new high, jumped ship, succinctly stating, “Chelsea is Chelsea”. The move did make sense, given the opportunity to play in Europe, after Newcastle failed to make the cut by a small margin last year. Also, Fernando Torres hasn’t repaid the faith the Blues placed in his gargantuan transfer from Merseyside and there was a clear gap, which needed to be filled by the incoming Rafa Benitez.
On the other hand, the Magpies defense has been unceremoniously deserted by Fabricio Coloccini, who has stated personal reasons regarding his wife’s health to head back to native Argentina. So much so, he refused to take part in their crucial match up against Aston Villa. Signed under Kevin Keegan in 2008, Coloccini was an integral part of the United line-up, who stayed on even during their year in the Championship. A coveted central defender, his departure would leave a massive void in the back line. Compared to the current structure, the Newcastle United defense used to suffer earlier, with players like Titus Bramble self-destructing regularly.
Given the movement away from the club, Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew didn’t have a choice but loosen the purse strings. The spending, however, has been concentrated on Ligue 1, France’s top national league. Similar signings have been made earlier, but sporadically, like Olivier Giroud for Arsenal, and Eden Hazard at Chelsea. The incoming players include Bordeaux forward Yoan Gouffran and Montpellier central defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. Also in the pipeline are Nancy defender Massadio Haïdara and Bastia midfielder Florian Thauvin. The Nancy defender joined the ranks as late as last night. Mathieu Debuchy also made a £5 million switch from Lille earlier this month.
Starting with Yoan Gouffran, surprisingly allergic to grass, is a proven striker with 12 goals this season; 8 in Ligue 1 from 20 games. He took to Twitter to announce his move, “Tomorrow I will be a new player of Newcastle and I am proud. Thanks to everyone.” He also said, “Big thanks to everyone who has supported me through the good times and bad times. I thank the leadership of the club and the staff for helping me grow I need a new challenge and therefore I hope that you respect my choice. I will follow all the results of the Girondins.”
Taking the number 13 shirt is Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa from Montpellier, the same club as Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud. Also on the shortlist for the Gunners, the African born French U-21 player chose St. James to help get a move on their Champion’s League hopes, which according to him are more than likely. A versatile central defender, he can play along the entire back-line, also doubling up as central defending midfielder, if need be.
Having already appeared in two contests for the Magpies, the French international Debuchy shifted for a reported £5.5 million from Lille, where he spent just under a decade making 223 appearances. Effective in the position of a right-back, he will step up to replace Coloccini if Haïdara doesn’t sign on the dotted line soon.
With the three aforementioned additions, and the prospective two more following, the majority at Newcastle will shift towards the land of the Eiffel tower. Players of French origin presently in the squad total to an astounding 9 out of the total squad of 36, topped only by players of English origin, which comes to a total of 11 players. Squad members like Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa, Romain Amalfitano, Sylvain Marveaux and Gabriel Obertan are all of French origin, in addition to the four January signings. So a prospective 10 players from France is certainly a first for the club, and maybe for the English Premier League as well.
How well it works under the English Pardew to get them in line with their European ambitions is a question that still needs answering, given their battle to survive relegation.