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Yohan Cabaye doesn’t sign for PSG – Newcastle United sliding doors moment

6 months ago
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Sliding Doors Moment: Episode 1 – What if Yohan Cabaye had not been sold to PSG in January 2014?

January 18th 2014.

In a small corner of East London, Yohan Cabaye stands over the ball 20 yards from goal, in front of the end housing the travelling Toon fans. With one step the French International swing his right boot to lift the ball carefully over the West Ham defensive wall.

It hits the upright and bounces into the net. Adrian in the Hammers goal is nowhere near it.

Cue delirious celebrations from the away end. Cabaye sinks to his knees having secured Alan Pardew’s side a huge 3-1 win.
It is Newcastle’s first win of the New Year and takes us to within a point of seventh placed Manchester United, who themselves were beaten by another Yohan Cabaye strike before Christmas at Old Trafford.

He had also produced man of the match displays in the draw with Liverpool and victory at Crystal Palace. The French number 4 was flying and the team were offering a genuine challenge for a Champions League place.

That Newcastle United side was the best I had seen since Sir Bobby Robson’s title challengers a decade or so before.

Although similar in make-up, it was better than Alan Pardew’s team that had finished 5th two seasons before, it now boasted the likes of Moussa Sissoko, Mathieu Debuchy, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Loic Remy.

The result was a competitive squad that could even deal with the odd injury.

Throughout the first half of the season Cabaye was a talismanic figure.

He had recovered superbly after starting the season on strike, after his head was turned by transfer interest from Arsenal, but his form over the subsequent months was exceptional, regularly running games in the middle of the park.

The fact the majority of our fanbase at that time continued to back Yohan, in spite of his early season off field issue, spoke volumes about his levels of performance during that campaign.

So what might have happened that season had we managed to fend off interest from PSG?

There is no doubt this Magpies side appeared to be getting stronger as the season wore on.
While they were far from unbeatable, they were a street smart Premier League side, who could both counter-attack effectively and manage a game.

The 2-0 win over Chelsea and 1-0 win at Old Trafford were both perfect examples.

The week before the West Ham game, Newcastle lost to Manchester City, but only after giving one of the performances of the season and having ‘that’ strike from Cheick Tiote wrongly ruled out.

Even putting that aside, Newcastle were hugely unlucky not to get a result against the eventual champions.

The following two games were Norwich away, before the derby against Sunderland at SJP.

Not exactly the hardest of fixtures for a team pushing for Europe, as both opponents were deep in relegation battles.

By the time the Newcastle team walked out at Carrow Road though, Cabaye was already in the air with a one-way ticket for Paris. His sale was confirmed by the club days later.

The team looked drained for that game against Sunderland, no doubt Cabaye’s departure played a part.

It was unfair on the home crowd who had already had to deal with a fair amount of disappointment on deadline day in the years immediately preceding 2014.

The whole day never really got going and we were soundly beaten 3-0.

Had we won that derby United would have sat on 40 points with three and a half months of the season still remaining. The second half of the season could have been attacked with a squad that were totally united.

Instead, the sale of Yohan Cabaye ripped out the heartbeat of that team.

Fabricio Coloccini was captain at the time, but make no mistake, Cabaye was a crucial part of that dressing room, which Alan Pardew as good as admitted in the weeks following the transfer.

The French contingent of Remy, Hatem Ben Arfa, Sissoko and co were wildly inconsistent in the second half of the season. The loss of such a huge personality and brilliant player seemed to have a ripple effect in the squad.

It should have raised alarms among the Newcastle hierarchy that the prospect of selling their best player halfway through a season without a replacement, could lead to the campaign falling off a cliff.

It should not have come as great shock that our form might suffer. The stats showed that in the 19 Premier League games United played without Cabaye during the time the Frenchman was at the club, only four were won.

When the derby loss was followed up with a 3-0 hammering at Chelsea and a disgraceful 4-0 defeat at home to Tottenham, the tone for the rest of the season was set.

Pardew survived a dreadful run of six straight defeats towards the end of the campaign that saw him turn on the local press.

While he will continue to be a divisive figure amongst sections of our support, no one can deny the decision to sell Cabaye was out of his hands and really hurt his plans going forward.

It’s also worth remembering that Manchester United, who ended up finishing 7th, were in complete freefall for much of the second half of the season under David Moyes who was sacked by April.

Tottenham finished 6th with Tim Sherwood as caretaker but their own performances were so inconsistent, he was nowhere near getting the job permanently in the summer. They ended up 20 points ahead of Newcastle but if performances ‘pre-Cabaye sale’ had been maintained into the second half of the season, this would have not been the case.

After 19 games (the halfway mark in the season) Alan Pardew’s side had amassed 33 points. If this had been replicated in the second half of the season the Magpies would have had a total of 66 points.

Add in a potential win or even a draw against Tottenham at home, with a Cabaye inspired performance, and we would have finished 6th.

If Ashley and co turned down PSG’s millions, it is far from inconceivable that Alan Pardew could have been leading Newcastle United to a second top six finish in just three seasons.

It could have only delayed the inevitable. One of the reasons we may have got such a high level of performance from Yohan for two and a half seasons, is the fact he knew he would be in the shop window for a ‘bigger’ club to sign him at some point down the line.

But his performances in his final few months at the club rightly mean he is still held up as one of Newcastle United’s great central midfielders in the Premier League era.

Perhaps the most damaging aspect of this whole episode for Newcastle United and manager Pardew was that the money generated from this transfer was eventually wasted the following summer on the likes of Remy Cabella and Siem De Jong.

If Yohan Cabaye had stuck around, Pardew could have not only got another top 6 finish, but maybe persuaded Ashley to invest more in the team to push regularly for European qualification.

You can follow the author on Twitter @JackLaceySport

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