Last time we took a look at the first impressions Ander Herrera and Cesc Fàbregas gave in their Premier League debuts, for their new clubs at least. Now let’s move on to the next batch of Fresh Faces, and starting by passing judgement on one of Newcastle United’s new signings, Rémy Cabella, before examining Liverpool’s Lovren.
The latest in Newcastle’s determined effort to import half of France to Tyneside, Cabella arrived from Montpellier during the summer for a not insignificant £12 million – which might as well be all the tea in China as far as the much maligned scrimper Mike Ashley is concerned. So the powers that be at St. James’s Park will be joined with fans in expecting an impact from the 24-year-old Frenchman, and based on what we saw in his first outing against Manchester City they have reason to be optimistic.
Operating on the left side of an attacking midfield trio with Sissoko and Gouffran, Cabella slotted in well and looked capable of being dynamic in the large attacking midfield space Alan Pardew favoured in this match. With the two central midfielders sitting a little deeper than they perhaps would against other opposition, the attacking three had more space to themselves than they might have expected, and Cabella in particular looked very comfortable from the whistle.
In his natural role – an advanced midfield position – Cabella showed a good turn of pace running with and without the ball, and managed to cause Clichy a few problems down that left-hand side. He also demonstrated solid technique and control, which isn’t uncommon amongst Newcastle’s recent imports, and his deft touch is reminiscent of former Newcastle star Yohan Cabaye. Early in the first half the youngster combined well with Sissoko to manufacture a chance for himself, first running at Clichy before feeding a pass straight past his man and immediately moving into space just outside the box from where he let off a decent curled effort. It didn’t trouble Joe Hart, but it did demonstrate how Cabella is capable of stretching a defence – it was his run and pass which created the space he eventually released the shot from – and reading the gaps left between defence and midfield. Likewise, his second half pass pulled back towards the edge of the box for Sissoko showed great vision and reading of the game, and if Cabella can continue to create opportunities like that for his teammates they’ll love him, and the Tyneside fans will embrace another French superstar.
He demonstrated solid technique and control, which isn’t uncommon amongst Newcastle’s recent imports, and his deft touch is reminiscent of former Newcastle star Yohan Cabaye.
In the second half we saw more pace on show, and while even at top speed he doesn’t look like one of football’s true speed merchants, he’s certainly got enough to worry defences with quick runs, and pull players out of position. What might be surprising is that despite his diminutive stature Cabella looks strong enough to hold his own against the big boys, and certainly isn’t afraid of being challenged. Technique, pace and what seems to be a really good eye for the gaps when attacking, Cabella looks well equipped for his stay in the Premier League. And while it’s probably unrealistic to expect him to recreate his 14 league goals for Montpellier last season against the generally tougher Premier League opposition, Newcastle fans should expect him to contribute at least a few to their tally.
Arriving from the south coast as part of Brendan Rodgers’ post-Suarez splurge, the £20 million addition to the Liverpool defence is looking to install himself as a regular partner to Martin Škrtel. Choosing the ex-Southampton man over the more conventionally successful defenders who might have found themselves available had Liverpool’s war chest been sent their way could be a great move – even though Lovren didn’t come cheap.
At Southampton Lovren’s ball-playing ability from the heart of defence shone through, and while he isn’t the perfect centre half when it comes to the actual defending side of the game, it’s a gamble that has paid off for some of the best defensive duos in Europe over the years. Combining a ball-playing defender with a more traditional centre half can certainly be effective, and the skills that make Lovren a solid fit for that role were regularly on show.
What was lacking though, and alarmingly so, was any real sign of Lovren’s ability to contribute to the defensive duties of a centre half pairing at the top level. Often out of position and lacking much in the way of urgency, he spent far too much time straying away from Liverpool’s defence. It could be that Rodgers’ new look defence just needs time to adapt to one another, but seeing Steven Gerrard forced to charge back and cover the man Lovren has left dangerously open won’t fill the manager with confidence for the immediate future.
What was lacking though, and alarmingly so, was any real sign of Lovren’s ability to contribute to the defensive duties of a centre half pairing at the top level.
Southampton shouldn’t be the toughest attacking threat that Lovren faces this season but when they pressed he looked uncertain and overwhelmed, especially when forced into close defending situations. Twice he was caught out and beaten by his man, simply by not getting close enough to kill the threat, and both times Southampton found themselves clear through on goal, scoring once. To his credit, Lovren looked solid in the air and cut out a couple of balls which could have caused issues, which will serve him well against stronger opposition, but if he can’t position himself better and start to control his man in and around the area, Brendan Rodgers might have cause for concern at the back.
See more from our Fresh Faces feature here.
Image courtesy of dailystar.co.uk