3rd March 2017. By Edward Stratmann.
Despite Crystal Palace enduring a very challenging season to date, it was encouraging to see one of their undisputed stars in Yohan Cabaye commit himself to the club in January.
Leaving would've been an easy way out for the Frenchman, especially with Marseille, who are coached by his former Lille manager Rudi Garcia, showing heavy interest. A return home and working under the familiarity Garcia could offer might have been enough to lure most players in his situation away, but Cabaye admirably decided to stay, desperate to help his team fight to avoid relegation.
"It's flattering, because OM are one of the great French clubs. I have immense respect for Rudi, the coach and the person he is. But my life is in London, my club, and I'm focused on that," he insisted.
"We're in a difficult situation. I'm trying my best to help my team as best I can. I have immense respect for the coach, but today that's the reality with my club. We're in a complicated situation."
Although his form's suffered a downturn in recent times, the 31-year-old's stirring performance in Crystal Palace's vital 1-0 win over Middlesbrough at the weekend went someway to making their current predicament a little better.
Indeed, the triumph briefly lifted the Eagles out of the relegation zone at Leicester City's expense (until the Foxes defeated Liverpool on Monday night), in a match where Cabaye demonstrated precisely why he's such a talented, multifaceted operator.
From his right central midfield slot, the man capped 48 times by France oozed class and intelligence throughout, while also showing off his admirable work rate. The key to him being able to have such a striking influence on the contest was the vast attacking freedom Sam Allardyce afforded him. And Cabaye certainly made the most of this licence to roam, using all his crafty movement and fine understanding of space to take up damaging positions.
He could be seen dropping deep to help Palace build their passing moves from the back and drifting into the right half space, which allowed him to inherit possession with acres of space ahead of him, to orchestrate his team's attacking forays. But undoubtedly where his presence was most keenly felt was in situations when he'd push into true central attacking midfield locations.
In such instances, he'd occupy spaces in between Boro's defensive and midfield lines to then use his sublime passing ability in advanced areas to unlock Aitor Karanka's men. From here, he could further wreak havoc by manipulating Boro's defensive structure and by ensuring Christian Benteke wasn't left isolated. Forever scanning and searching for openings, Cabaye's shrewd lateral and diagonal movement continually unsettled his adversaries, forcing them into tough decisions as to who should leave their post to mark him, thus inevitably creating space for his teammates.
Although the standout aspects of his tremendous body of work came from his well calculated variations and intuitive movement, his defensive energy was also an endearing component of his outing. Aggressive in his pressing and never afraid to launch himself into a tackle or a physical confrontation, his no nonsense manager would've loved seeing him exert himself so wholeheartedly in this phase of the game too.
By the numbers, his two key passes, two shots, two won aerial duels, four successful defensive actions and his somewhat fortunate assist only served to accentuate his immense impact on both sides of the ball.
Having slipped back into the relegation zone after Leicester's upset win over Liverpool, there's no doubting a fully focused and determined Cabaye will be an instrumental figure in Palace's quest to remain in the division.
While he hasn't enjoyed the best of seasons to date, both he and the Eagles will be hoping his efforts against Boro will be just the catalyst he needs to return to his best.
In Cabaye, Allardyce's team has a player who possesses the rare capacity to change a game in an instant with a moment of magic, which should serve as a real asset in their fight to stave of relegation.
Only time will tell if he, in fact, can. But if he can't, however, it's hard to imagine him showing the same loyalty he did in January by sticking with the club in their hour of need.
Yohan Cabaye Extends Crystal Palace Contract Until January
3rd March 2017. By Edward Stratmann.