Sunday, 28 September 2014

Yanga-Mbwia shows Newcastle what they're missing

Newcastle have been defensively shoddy so far this season and that’s almost definitely putting it kindly. So far Alan Pardew’s side have shipped 11 goals in 5 games, an average of over 2. Whilst Pardew was widely praised pre-season for the business he carried out, he failed to strengthen defensively, Janmaat was the only defender brought in and that was as a direct replacement for the departing Debuchy.

It was perhaps somewhat surprising then that French defender Mapou Yanga-Mbwia was allowed to leave on transfer deadline day to Roma on a season long loan. Yanga-Mbwia who joined in January 2013 had failed to make an impact at Newcastle, mainly because his first team chances had been limited and when he has been given chances it’s been due to injuries or suspensions and he’s often had to fill in at full back. His versatility is another great trait and another reason why it’s surprising Newcastle let him go on loan, given their lack of options defensively. That said, it’s certainly the best move for the player, he will be hoping for regular football under Rudi Garcia at Roma and could get experience of Champions League football.  

Yanga-Mbwia has made 3 starts since his deadline day move to Italy and Roma have conceded just once in those three games, perhaps it’s worth noting that’s the only goal they’ve let in this season.  His place in the team is currently because of the injury to Davide Astori, however, you feel if his level of performance continues Yanga-Mbwia may be able to cement his place in the starting line up.

In a recent interview Yanga-Mbwia claimed his move to Newcastle had been a mistake and he had struggled to adapt to the physicality of the Premier League, I imagine that wasn’t helped by him playing out of position. He added that the style of football in Italy is more similar to that of France, highlighting the way “They play more football”, presumably that is in reference to a more passing game.

That makes sense given his pass accuracy of 92.3% for Roma and he is making 56 passes per game, he is clearly very comfortable on the ball. However, he is as composed as he is on the ball defensively, making an average of 2 tackles and 2.7 interception per game, figures which are considerably higher than Astori’s (although he has only played one full league game this season).  He has only committed 2 fouls in his 3 games for Roma, that too speaks of the composure and leadership which was a times lacking at Newcastle.
His statistics are considerably higher than at Newcastle last year where he managed 17 starts. His pass accuracy was just 82% last season, so perhaps he is better suited to a more continental style of football than Newcastle are playing at the minute. He also averaged 1.7 tackles and 1 interceptions per game in his time at St James’ Park last year. His statistics are much more comparable to his time at Montpellier (2.2 tackles, 2.8 interceptions in 2011/12) now he’s at Roma, it seems he’s much more at home on the continent.

Admittedly three games is a very small sample size and it’ll be interesting to see how he does over the course of the season but I can imagine Alan Pardew may be regretting letting him go on loan at the moment. Let’s not forget that this is a player who captained his Montpellier side to the Ligue 1 title and while the player himself has spoken about how he struggled in England who knows how he would have fared given more games at centre back and a regular spell in the team.

Last season Roma finished runners up in Italy and will be hoping to go one better this time. Next up for Yanga-Mbwia and Roma: a trip to the Ethiad, he’ll be hoping they fare much better than Newcastle did when they faced the champions on the opening day of the season.

Statistics courtesy of

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