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Premier League: Newcastle's French connection

Moussa Sissoko has made a flying start to life at Newcastle

We know all about Cabaye and Ben Arfa - but ahead of their game against Spurs on Saturday lunchtime, James Eastham profiles Newcastle's five new French signings...


Mathieu Debuchy (signed from Lille)
Right-back - age 27

He nearly joined Newcastle last summer so it was no surprise when the move finally happened last month. A star of Lille's 2010-11 Double-winning side, he has also impressed for France, battling Bacary Sagna to be first-choice right-back. A close friend of former Lille team-mate Yohan Cabaye, who sold Newcastle's ambitious plans to him, he's tremendous going forward, with outstanding stamina. He's petulant, too - look out for him in the bookings markets because he picks up unnecessary yellow cards (22 in his last two-and-a-half Ligue 1 seasons).

Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (Montpellier)
Centre-half - age 23

As captain he led Montpellier to their first-ever league title last May and is France Football magazine's current French Young Player of the Year. His strengths can be summed up in three words: defending, defending and, yes, defending. Think Sol Campbell at his peak - a quiet giant of a player, he's rugged, unrelenting and enjoys nothing more than making matches 90 minutes of hell for strikers. Like Debuchy, he is now a regular in the France squad, and close to becoming a first-choice in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. Many in the French game simply call him 'Mapou' to avoid that tongue-twister of a surname.

Massadio Haidara (Nancy)
Left-back - age 20

Newcastle were one of several Premier League clubs tracking Haidara. A rising star of the French game, he's quick, athletic, powerful, picks his moments to attack judiciously and is blessed with a lethal shot in his left foot (so say his youth coaches; he's yet to score a league goal). Given his all-round ability he could turn out to be as much of a bargain for The Magpies as Patrice Evra was for Manchester Utd seven years ago. The progress Haidara and Lille's Lucas Digne (on Manchester City's wanted list) have made over the past 12 months suggests France's struggle to adequately fill the left-back spot will be shortly over.
 
Moussa Sissoko (Toulouse)
Central midfield - age 23

A powerful midfield runner, Sissoko has been a star in the making since his sensational league debut for Toulouse against then-Ligue 1 champions Lyon at the age of 17. He has tremendous athletic ability but occasionally lacks personality - in France, he didn't dominate games the way many believed he should considering his immense physical qualities. The hothouse atmosphere of the Premier League should be the ideal finishing school for him. The brace he struck against Chelsea on his second Magpies outing showed he's already adapting to the more open nature of English football - in Ligue 1, he averaged just three to four goals a season.

Yoan Gouffran (Bordeaux) 
Striker - age 26

Once a star of the France U21 squad, Gouffran has never quite hit the heights expected of him, but he's enjoyed a respectable Ligue 1 career. After starting out at Caen, he eventually flourished at Bordeaux, scoring 26 goals in 59 Ligue 1 and European games while operating up front alone during his final 18 months there, a record that speaks volumes for his character as well as goalscoring ability. He's versatile, too - he can play 'up top', off the main striker or wide on either flank, so expect to see him pop up everywhere.

Recommended Bets

Moussa Sissoko is available at 20.019/1 to be first goalscorer against Spurs, while Yoan Gouffran is 13.012/1

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07 February 2013

Premier League

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