Last summer, Crystal Palace pulled off a coup as they signed Yohan Cabaye from PSG and it was a statement of intent from the club. After two years fighting relegation, Palace signed Cabaye to take them to the next level and it showed signs of working. Alan Pardew’s side had a great start and were fighting for European places around Christmas time, but a slump during the second half of the season saw Palace drop to 15th. Although they were never in real threat of being relegated, it was seen as an opportunity missed for the club.
They didn’t utilise Cabaye effectively for the majority of last season, which was odd as the Frenchman played the best football of his career under Alan Pardew at Newcastle. In his final season at Newcastle, the midfielder was used in an advanced role behind the striker. He shone over those six months, scoring seven goals and contributing two assists. His ability to drift between the lines and affect the play in dangerous areas make him perfect for the role. The French international can score from range and play incisive through balls that cut defences open, which is why Palace need to play him further forward.
For the most part of last season, Cabaye was used in a deep-lying playmaker role, which he can play well. He has an incredible passing range and is tenacious when it comes to defending. At times he can be overly aggressive and concede dangerous fouls, but he works hard for the team when out of possession. Despite Cabaye fulfilling this role effectively, it doesn’t allow him to be at his most dangerous. It is incredibly difficult to create clear cut chances from deep positions and it takes away from his goal threat.
Palace need to develop a way of playing that isn’t reliant on their wingers. They have a dangerous group of wide players including Wilfried Zaha, Yannick Bolasie, Andros Townsend and Bakary Sako, all of whom can have a devastating influence on matches. However, Palace became predictable and sides doubled up on their wingers, which limited their impact on matches. As a result, Palace didn’t create as many clear-cut chances in the second half of the season as they did in the first. The drop off was considerable and highlighted how Pardew can’t innovate his tactics when things start to go wrong.
Throughout his managerial career, Pardew has done well for the first 12-18 months at every club he has been at before things go wrong and his sides normally suffer a terrible run of form. The Crystal Palace manager struggles to arrest a slide, but the one time he did manage to do it was at Newcastle and the reason for it was the change in role for Yohan Cabaye. At the beginning of the 2013/14 season, Cabaye came back into the side at the number ten position, operating behind Loic Remy and the combination was deadly.
The Frenchman became less creative, as Newcastle were relying on the wing play of Moussa Sissoko and Yoan Gouffran, but Cabaye started to score goals regularly. His ability to arrive late into the area and find space to get a shot away was impressive. The midfielder’s finishing ability from the edge of the area led to many goals, including the winner at Old Trafford to give Newcastle their first win there for decades. That was his best period in English football and earned him a move to PSG.
This season, Pardew needs to utilise Cabaye in the same way as he did at Newcastle and give him more attacking license. Palace still don’t have a proven striker to score goals, but Cabaye can get more than ten if he is played in an advanced role. The side at Palace is similar to the one he thrived in at Newcastle, with quick wingers who can get past the full back and deliver the ball into the box. If Cabaye can find space on the edge of the area, he will score goals as he is a smart finisher. The Frenchman was good in his first season at Selhurst Park. However, he can be much better and have more influence in the final third. Pardew needs to play him in an advanced position and if he does, Palace will reap the rewards.
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