Yohan Cabaye might not be getting the acclaim that Papiss Demba Cisse has been receiving, but the French midfielder is having a standout first season at Newcastle. After being in the centre of Alan Pardew’s 4-4-2 with Cheick Tiote, the switch to 4-3-3 has set Yohan Cabaye free and the move is paying dividends. The Frenchman has two goals and four assists in his last three matches, as Cabaye’s eye for the through ball has been exploited to the full.
Yohan Cabaye in a 4-3-3
Playing in central midfield with Cheick Tiote in Newcastle’s 4-4-2, the Ivorian was tasked with playing the holding role to win the ball back and distribute it. Yohan Cabaye would operate slightly further forward looking to gain possession from Tiote and set up the Newcastle attack.
Since moving to a variation of the 4-3-3 formation six games ago, Yohan Cabaye now has the luxury of playing with two deeper lying midfielders. This now affords him the opportunity to relinquish some of his defensive responsibilities that he had when playing with just Tiote and get forward more.
With the two deeper lying midfielders in place, Newcastle are able to let their attacking players go and play, whilst having the comfort of six in defence behind.
Newcastle win the ball for Cabaye
Without the ball, Newcastle play what Jose Mourinho calls a ‘bridge press.’ The four attacking players of Ba, Cisse, Ben Arfa and Cabaye can apply pressure up the field in order to try and win the ball back after losing it. After this initial ‘light’ press from the attacking players, who may not be in the best positions to win it back, there is a gap to the six players behind.
These six, which combine the four defenders and the two deeper lying midfielders, are the main focus of regaining the ball. Once they have reclaimed it, they can get it to the attacking players through Yohan Cabaye to do the damage.
If we take a look at the last few matches, we can see this in action. Against Stoke, the game was actually played 32% of the time in Newcastle’s final third, compared to just 17% in the Stoke end. The Magpies almost invited Stoke on to them, so that they could force interceptions through having two deeper lying midfielders and spring in to attack. Of the 13 interceptions forced by Newcastle, Jonas Gutierrez and Cheick Tiote, who were occupying these roles made 7.
In the previous match with Bolton we had a similar thing going on. The game was again played more in the Magpies’ end (31%) to Bolton’s (24%), but Newcastle were able to force more interceptions through their initial press.
When Bolton got through this and up the field, the two deeper midfielders and defenders were able to halt the Trotters’ advances to keep a clean sheet.
Cabaye can play with more freedom
With two deeper lying midfielders and four defenders to win the ball back, Yohan Cabaye is free to focus his game on three main areas.
Firstly, once the defence and deeper midfielders have won the ball back for Newcastle, Yohan Cabaye can pick it up from them and spread the play. Secondly, without having to partner Tiote in the middle of a 4-4-2, he can drift out to either flank to link up with Hatem Ben Arfa and Demba Ba. The final area is the most important and where he has done the most damage, which is playing penetrating through balls to Papiss Demba Cisse.
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