Sissoko, Gouffran, Debuchy: A Complete Guide to Newcastle's French Contingent
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Newcastle United were making the headlines on a regular basis in January with their assault on the transfer market, raiding Ligue 1 no less than five times for some of France's top talent. With those players now on board, the Magpies have started to climb the table, relieving some of the pressure on Francophile coach Alan Pardew.
Three of those arrivals are Moussa Sissoko, Yoan Gouffran and Mathieu Debuchy. Two of them are French internationals, with Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa also a national-team regular with Didier Deschamps.
The trio were relatively unknown before arriving but are now fast becoming recognised star names.
Here is a guide to three of Newcastle's latest French arrivals based on their time in Ligue 1.
Sissoko has already had an explosive impact since his arrival from Toulouse; the French international has scored two goals and provided two assists in just three games.
What is most fascinating about Sissoko's success at St James' Park so far is that he didn't always look focused on his game at Toulouse, so many people passed him off as an average midfielder.
Prior to his arrival on Tyneside, Sissoko’s reputation in Ligue 1 had been growing since his debut in 2007, culminating in Raymond Domenech’s recognition of his talent with a call-up to les Bleus in 2009.
A tough-tackling, energetic, pacy and creative midfielder, he is an all-rounder who contributes goals despite playing primarily as a box-to-box midfielder.
Having started out as a central and attacking midfielder in 2007-2008, Sissoko was moved to defensive midfield under manager Alain Casanova the following year and it was in this role that he really shot to prominence. He built on his impressive debut season by scoring five goals, became an indispensable member of the first team and narrowly missed out to Lille’s Eden Hazard for the Young Player of the Year award.
Despite playing just in front of the defence, Sissoko’s role for Toulouse was that of a destroyer-cum-attacker. He is often seen intercepting the opponent’s possession of the ball before carrying it up the other end of the field to start an attack.
Capable of dribbling at high speed and with good technique, the youngster also possesses great skill and composure and is unerringly consistent with his form.
The time had come for him to leave surroundings that he had outgrown, and Newcastle seems a perfect fit for him. His more advanced role for the Magpies too will get the best out of his creative abilities.
For a player whose career has been somewhat hindered by an allergy to certain types of vegetation (but not to grass, as is widely reported), Gouffran has done remarkably well as a football player. To think he converted from a wide man into an out-and-out striker too is even more impressive.
It had become an inevitability that Gouffran would leave les Girondins eventually given his good form, and the rumours linking the club with the return of fan favourite Marouane Chamakh seemed to speed that up.
The former Caen man top-scored last season with 14 goals following a remarkable conversion into an out-and-out striker from a wide man, and he'd also scored eight before leaving in January.
But despite Gouffran’s ability to lead the line on his own, les Girondins still lacked a real presence up top and that is perhaps what is holding them back from immediately challenging for the Ligue 1 title.
Whilst Gouffran was their most established goalscorer, he will not likely occupy that role for Newcastle because of Papiss Cisse's presence within the side.
Instead, Gouffran will likely revert back to playing from wide with an ability to cut inside and provide goals on a less regular basis than a striker in the mould of Demba Ba would be expected to.
His arrival will further limit the playing time of the likes of Sylvain Marveaux, but Gouffran's addition to the team could be shrewd if Pardew uses him in the right way.
French international right-back Debuchy is an excellent capture for the club. A defender by position but more of an attacking presence, the former Lille man offers constant menace on the right.
When pushed forward, Debuchy is an asset. In Lille's title-winning season in 2011 he bagged two goals and three assists from defence, showing what he was capable of, and then last season he scored five goals, often well-timed.
The balance of the Lille setup under Rudi Garcia was perfect for Debuchy and gives Newcastle fans an idea of what to expect in Pardew's side.
Debuchy was given licence to attack in the knowledge that the midfield trio of Yohan Cabaye (sound familiar?), Rio Mavuba and Florent Balmont would cover him. This season with Mavuba and Balmont ageing and no Cabaye, the protection he once enjoyed had gone, and he was unable to express himself.
Now at Newcastle, Debuchy will be able to form a similar understanding with the likes of Cabaye and Cheick Tiote.
Newcastle have a player who not only brings dedication and desire to the team but is also an excellent defender who is always looking to attack.
If Pardew gives Debuchy the freedom to push forward and provide a presence in the final third then, at £5 million, he may prove to be a bargain.
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