Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa: Why Defender Is a Good Fit for Newcastle

Dan FitchFeatured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 21:  Mapou Yanga-mbiwa of Montpellier clashes with Mikel Arteta of Arsenal during the UEFA Champions League group B match between Arsenal FC and Montpellier Herault SC at Emirates Stadium on November 21, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa is a much-wanted man. It has been reported that the defender is set for a medical with Newcastle ahead of a £6.7m transfer to the club. Arsenal have also been linked with a last-minute move for the defender.

It is Arsenal who have long been mentioned as a possible Premier League destination for the French international. Yanga-Mbiwa is an extremely versatile player who can play any position in the back four, and with Bacary Sagna still having not committed to signing a new contract at Arsenal, the Montpellier captain could have slotted in at right-back.

In some ways, this would have made for an easier transition to English football for Yanga-Mbiwa. He could have shared right-back duties with Carl Jenkinson and covered for any emergencies at centre-back or left-back.

Instead of this low-key introduction, Yanga-Mbiwa looks set to face a baptism of fire at Newcastle. Alan Pardew has recently signed Mathieu Debuchy to play at right-back, so Yanga-Mbiwa looks earmarked to play in central defence, possibly to replace club captain Fabricio Coloccini, who looks set to return to Argentina.

Ideally, Yanga-Mbiwa would play alongside Coloccini, but if Newcastle can't convince the Argentine to stay at the club, then their new signing will have big boots to fill. 

Coloccini is not just a top central defender, but is also an inspirational leader who is influential enough to have been named as club captain. I'm sure, though, that the Newcastle management will have noted that Yanga-Mbiwa is himself the captain of Montpellier at the young age of 23. In the long term, he could be the man to wear the Magpies' armband.

So what can Newcastle fans expect from Yanga-Mbiwa? He's very skillful for a central defender and has played as a defensive midfielder for Montpellier on occasion. He is a player who is calm in possession and not afraid to use a trick to create space for himself before releasing a short pass to a teammate.

Yanga-Mbiwa is very positionally aware and tends to win a lot of balls through interception, having anticipated where the ball is to be played. In this manner, he's somewhat reminiscent of Ledley King.

He will probably best be paired with a bigger, aerially dominant central defender. Yanga-Mbiwa, standing 6'0", isn't the strongest when it comes to aerial battles. Instead, he'll be better off mopping up any loose balls that get knocked down. He's a good tackler and is always alert to danger.

It seems like a good move for both parties. Newcastle get a relatively cheap, young player who has already experienced a lot in the game and looks like a perfect replacement for Coloccini. Yanga-Mbiwa, meanwhile, joins a club that already has a healthy French contingent, putting himself firmly in the sights of France coach Didier Deschamps.