Manchester United's needs for a new central midfielder are rather well documented. As such, the press have constantly been linking the club to many midfielders, one of whom is Yohan Cabaye. Playing for Newcastle United, he has truly shone in the past two seasons, with many reports linking the Frenchman to a bigger club, and who bigger than Manchester United? It seems as though the signing would be useful, but how useful? We shall take a look at Cabaye to see whether or not it is worth United's time in chasing the player, and how his signing will impact the club.
Performance from Last Season:
Over the previous season, Yohan Cabaye has been proven to be an integral part of the Newcastle midfield. He helps to keep the ball moving in the team as well as helping to set up his teammates for chances on goal. He certainly has an ability to score amazing free kicks, as was evident in his goal against United in the 2011/12 season (3-0 win at St. James' Park). In his 26 league appearances for Newcastle United last season, he averaged 45.1 passes per game, putting him on level with the likes of Tom Cleverley in Manchester United's current midfield. He did, however, complete only 79.3% of his passes on average, a number that most certainly needs to be improved if he is to make an impact in the United first team. For comparison's sake, Cleverley completes 90.2% of the passes he attempts, indicating a very large difference between the two players. Cabaye does have the ability to play very good long balls, as indicated by his 5.4 completed long balls per game, putting him on par with the likes of Michael Carrick in the current United midfield. Another aspect of his game which is quite similar to the current players at Manchester United is his dribbles per game; at 0.3 it does not represent a significant upgrade to the choices already available to David Moyes. The Frenchman take many more shots than any of United's midfielders, averaging about 2.3 shots per game, unlike Cleverley, who has the highest out of the current batch of United midfielders, at 0.9 shots per game. Defensively, Cabaye is very solid, and will provide good cover to the defenders. He completes 3.1 tackles per game, a number which is drastically higher than the current closest in the United midfield which is from Michael Carrick at 2.3 tackles per game. Furthermore, Cabaye intercepts the ball an average of 2.1 times per game, again putting him at the same level as Michael Carrick. Combined, these two stats put him on a level above the current crop in the United midfield. However, he does give away 1.6 fouls per game, a number that needs to go down. He is also dispossessed 1.1 times per game and turns the ball over 0.7 times per game; a little higher than the midfielders already available to David Moyes but nonetheless not too shabby. Finally, Cabaye completes 2 key passes per game, once again showcasing his ability to play a killer pass on a level higher than his United teammates, as the highest from Mancehster United is only 1. Overall, Yohan Cabaye had a very strong season in the year gone by.
How Would He Fit In?
Should Yohan Cabaye come to Manchester United, he will either play one of two roles: provide an alternative if Carrick were to be injured, suspended or rested, or play as a partner to Michael Carrick, thereby replacing Tom Cleverley in the current lineup. He will provide an extra goal threat direct from deeper in midfield to aid the attack, especially by possessing both a killer long shot as well as very nice vision to see and play out the right passes. Should Tom Cleverley be replaced by Cabaye, one can expect much more possession for United as both Cabaye and Carrick are very similar in terms of their ability to win the ball back. Both have identical interception rates while Cabaye completes many more tackles per game. His ability to play a long ball will also help in both spreading the play out to United's wingers, or launching a counter-attack directly from an opposition set piece. Speaking of set pieces, he can take corners and free kicks as well, allowing both Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie to be a presence in the box while the set piece is being taken, thereby providing an additional threat for the team rather than losing one of their striking talents by having them take the set piece. He would provide goals from a deep lying position, especially as he scored more league goals than all of United's current midfielders combined. One should be expecting much more attacking play by Manchester United if Yohan Cabaye were to arrive as his penchant to go for a Hollywood style pass would provide opportunities to United's front four. He won't be able to provide lung bursting runs from deep but will be able to help Carrick orchestrate play from the deep allowing United's forwards run riot with opposition defenses. He will provide another creative outlet along with Carrick, Rooney, and Kagawa, but his defensive abilities will mean that the team should not be compromised if they over commit to attacking. Cabaye's tackling and interception skills will also allow Carrick to have much more freedom in orchestrating the attacks from deep, as he will not have to worry about losing the ball as much, allowing for what could potentially be much flashier and appealing football as a whole for the team. Overall, Yohan Cabaye would provide a solid addition to Manchester United's current midfield.
The Key Problems:
There are three big worries that come when thinking about the potential transfer of Yohan Cabaye to United. The first big problem is his current passing completion percentage, which is only at 79.5%. This is far too low for a midfielder if he were to join United, especially considering the kind of opposition he will be facing in the UEFA Champions League. Even in the Premier League, having so many incomplete passes is simply not acceptable. While against smaller opposition it may be okay, but against the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, and even Arsenal, it is very dangerous to be giving the ball away at such a rate. While his completion rate should certainly go up if he joins United, he will need to step up his game as a whole if he wishes to go up into an elite level of play. The second red flag is simply his size. While he may still make tackles by the dozen and make many interceptions, he is not at all what someone would call physically dominant. He may have proven himself in the Premier League by playing with Newcastle but up against bigger and stronger opponents, he would very likely be simply pushed off the ball. While he certainly has plenty of muscle, especially for a player of his size, against the likes of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, pairing him with Carrick is a very risky proposition. The third big problem with Cabaye is the rate at which he gives up fouls to the opposing team. His current rate of 1.6 fouls per game is double the worst in United's current midfield. While it will very likely improve with a solid midfield partner in the form of Michael Carrick, it will still be a worry giving away a set piece in potentially a very dangerous position, especially going back to the point that he is short, and unlikely to be physically dominant when defending a set piece.
An Ideal Addition?
While Yohan Cabaye may not be the answer to Manchester United's midfield woes, he certainly will provide an extra dimension and give an improvement to the current midfield options. His ability to win back the ball will surely only serve to help out Michael Carrick and his ability to play a killer long ball or through pass thanks to his vision will greatly expand the range of options in Manchester United's link-up play to set up goals. In addition, his long shot is an additional threat to the opposition, potentially giving United's front four extra space and time on the ball due to the defense having to worry about his presence. Concerns do remain about his size, physical dominance, fouling rate and pass completion rates, especially if United were to face top tier European or even English opposition. Nonetheless, at his reported price of 14.5 million pounds and at the age of 27, thus entering his prime years and beyond, he could be a very good addition to the squad. Overall, a midfielder Manchester United would like, but not the one they need.