Newcastle continued their French shopping spree yesterday after acquiring Yoan Gouffran from Bordeaux on a four-and-a-half year deal. With just six months remaining on his contract, the 26-year-old forward moves to St James’ Park for a bargain fee believed to be in the region of £1.5m, and is the third player to arrive from Ligue 1 this month, following Mathieu Debuchy and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa to the club.
Having lost top scorer Demba Ba to Chelsea, strengthening the attacking positions was always going to be a priority for Alan Pardew and, with Hatem Ben Arfa still sidelined with an ongoing hamstring problem, the Magpies boss spoke of his delight after bringing the versatile Gouffran to Tyneside:
“Yoan comes to the club with a great pedigree and, like the other signings we have made this month, is a player who will add considerable strength to our squad. I liked the look of him when we played Bordeaux at St. James’ Park earlier this season; pacy, direct and intelligent and those are qualities I like in a footballer. I am sure he will quickly adapt to the rigours and intensity of the Premier League and play an important role for us for the remainder of the season.”
For someone who is allergic to grass, Gouffran has made an impressive start to his career. Starting off in the French lower divisions with FC Caen, he helped his side earn promotion to Ligue 1 in 2006-07, with a 15 goal haul earning him the Ligue 2 Player of the Year award. Over five years with the club, he produced 33 goals and seven assists from 115 appearances before being snapped up by Bordeaux in June 2008.
Gouffran’s debut campaign for his new club proved somewhat bittersweet – his winner against Caen in the final game of the season clinched the Ligue 1 title for Bordeaux but sent his former side back down into the second tier. Over his time at Bordeaux, Gouffran produced 31 goals and 11 assists from 139 league appearances, though his final couple of campaigns were particularly impressive, with 22 goals and three assists accrued from his final 54 Ligue 1 matches before making his way to Tyneside. He has also turned out for the France U21 side on 22 occasion, finding the net three times, though has yet to receive a call-up at senior level.
Certainly, Gouffran is no like-for-like replacement for Demba Ba. Standing five foot nine, his pace and trickery in possession means he’s equally as comfortable on the flank as he is through the middle. Alan Pardew has the option of utilising the new boy as a strike partner for Papiss Cisse in a 4-4-2 or fielding him out wide in a 4-3-3, with Hatem Ben Arfa – when fit – also flanking the Senegalese striker.
Given that the latter formation seems to suit Cisse better, Gouffran is perhaps more likely to be fielded out wide, despite the fact he’s plundered 10 goals from 23 appearances in all competitions through the middle for Bordeaux this season. New team mate Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa summed up Gouffran’s main attributes:
“I have met him several times, and played against him in the French league. He is the type of player that gives us defenders a lot of work, he makes us work very hard. He runs deep, collects the ball, and holds it up very well. He lets the team get forward, and gives the team chances to counter attack. He’s good on the ball, and that would be something very useful for the team.”
Faith in Newcastle’s Fantasy assets is understandably low after a poor season finds them just two points above the drop zone with 15 matches remaining. Cisse is now the club’s top scorer with four strikes, while Cabaye and Ben Arfa are next best with three goals apiece – given that the former has two appearances since Gameweek 12 and the latter has featured once since Gameweek 13, it’s a damning indictment of the current squad’s minimal contributions and certainly bodes well for Gouffran’s game time, as Pardew looks to the new boy to boost his side’s attacking potential.
His arrival looks set to place question marks over the game time of Sylvain Marveaux – the latter has now started the last five and has been eyed up as a potential bargain at 4.3 in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) but may struggle to retain his starting berth. A FPL price in the region of 7.0 seems realistic – considering Ba started off at 7.5 – but many will be happy to hold fire and assess Gouffran’s role within the team before considering his potential.
His Fantasy prospects could come down to his classification, though. Gouffran looks likely to be listed as a forward – given his starting role for Bordeaux – but with Ben Arfa down as a midfielder and Cisse now set to play through the middle regardless of formation, the new boy could well struggle to persuade investors unless Pardew has him earmarked for a central berth. Like Everton’s Kevin Mirallas, then, he may find himself on the periphery of our thinking – a great talent whose possible reverse out of position role could significantly limit his appeal.