When Yoan Gouffran arrived on Tyneside, the team was struggling and looked to be heading for a serious relegation battle. Gouffran coming in from Bordeaux, in the same January 2013 transfer window that saw the arrival of Moussa Sissoko and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, amongst others.
It was Sissoko and Yanga-Mbiwa that arrived with the big reputations and while Sissoko showed glimpses of real quality and impressed on his home debut, scoring two in a victory against Chelsea, things never took off for Yanga-Mbiwa.
He featured more at right back than in his natural position at the heart of the defence but even when he did play centre back, his lack of aggression, strength or willingness to head to the ball meant he never really impressed.
Compared to his two French counterparts, Gouffran was relatively unknown but there is an argument that during that half season, he outshone both. The striker/midfielder showed a great work rate, combined with a good engine, decent skill and tactical awareness. Using the latter to score some vital goals, with late movement off defenders.
On the whole, Yoan Gouffran did almost everything that could be expected of a good, attacking, left-sided midfielder. He was a willing runner, strong and reasonably fast, he had good heading and finishing abilities and was pretty versatile.
It was this versatility that would be his downfall. He began to fall down the pecking order, on the left-hand side, becoming more of a bit part player, used for his work rate to defend leads late on and the fans saw less of the all action, forward running that had impressed them early in his Newcastle career.
The Gouffran that the fans had fallen in love with seemed all but gone and it wasn’t long until he was being deployed as a defensive central midfielder, most notably away at Man City, where he was picked apart, moved around and made to look almost foolish at times.
Even when Rafa Benitez took over last season, there seemed to be no place in his plans for Gouffran. It seemed he was unwanted and would be shipped out, with mixed memories the only thing left and his career on Tyneside ultimately ending on something of a downer.
As the new campaign started, there was still no place for Gouffran, despite training well and impressing in pre-season. However, after a poor first couple of games, Benitez turned to the hard working Frenchman against Reading and Gouffran, as in his early days, would not disappoint.
He still had his work rate, his strength and power – all of which have seemingly been rediscovered this season. He once again looks a fixture in the side and has stayed beyond the close of the transfer window that so many felt he would leave in.
Yoan Gouffran really has shown that hard work pays off and after so many players who in recent years have not worked hard for our side and for their teammates, it can only be a positive message to others at the club, that Gouffran is back playing regularly.
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