Cheikh M’bengue, A Good Replacement for Jose Enrique?
It now looks all but certain that the Spanish left back Jose Enrique will leave Newcastle United before the new season starts. Whether he will be much better off at a rebuilding Liverpool team or at Arsenal (where they are likely to lose Cesc Fabregas or Samir Nasri or maybe even both of them) remains to be seen. At the end of the day Jose will have to decide which team’s future he believes in.
Jose Enrique has been a very influential player for Newcastle United over the last 2 seasons and his partnership with his “amigo” Jonas Gutierrez down the left side of the pitch has been key in starting attacks. Their final deliveries may not have been as good as the manager would like but in terms of effort and importance they were vital to the success of the team with 38% of the attacks occurring on the left side compared to 32% through the middle and 30% on the right side of the pitch.
The one name that has been brought up as a possible replacement most often is that of Cheikh M’bengue. The 22 year old French left back plays for Toulouse in France, a team that finished 8th in the 2010/2011 season. At first glance he seems to match the requirements – young, French and hopefully hungry for success. Unfortunately he doesn’t seem to be very cheap with reports from France suggesting that a £5 million offer was rejected back in April. One would think that Alan Pardew would want to replace Enrique and buy a back-up left back with the proceeds from the sale of the current Newcastle number 3. Maybe buying M’bengue and Swansea’s Neil Taylor would solve this problem, but that would mean that Enrique would have to be sold for more than £6.5 million.
Let’s have a look at a performance comparison between Jose Enrique and Cheikh M’bengue based on the 2010/2011 league season:
|Description||Jose Enrique||Cheikh M'bengue|
|Tackles per Game||1.7||2.9|
|Interceptions per Game||1.6||2.6|
|Fouls per Game||0.4||2.4|
|Clearances per Game||1.7||3|
|Shots per Game||0.3||0.1
|Key Passes per Game||0.8||0.6|
|Dribbles per Game||1.8||0.7|
|Fouled per Game||0.9||1.7|
|Dispossessed/Turnovers per Game||2.8||2.5|
|Team Attacks on Left Side||38%||38%|
|Passes per game||46.2||34.5|
|% Passes Completed per Game||77%||73%|
|Successful Crosses per game||0.9||0.2|
|Successful Longballs per Game||1.7||0.8|
|Strengths||Dribbling, Passing, Crossing||Dribbling, Short Passing, Tackling|
|Weaknesses||Tackling, Possession Loss||Fouls too often|
Based on the above table it seems as though Cheikh M’bengue offers a bit more on the defensive front with more tackles and interceptions per game. His 2.4 fouls per game is somewhat worrying but he is still only 22 years old, so there’s time to learn and develop. Enrique offers more on the attacking side of things and is more involved in the attacking play than M’bengue is, but Jose was only credited with 1 assist in 36 games and Cheikh averages only 0.2 key passes less a game than the Spaniard.
I’m sure that Graeme Carr and his team have a shortlist with other left back targets should Enrique leave and M’bengue not be available. My assessment is that M’bengue has the potential to be a very good left back for Newcastle in the years to come, and these days it seems to be all about potential at St. James Park.
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