YOHAN Cabaye may have disappointed Arsène Wenger last summer, but he thinks the Arsenal manager played an indirect role in bringing him to the Premier League.
Wenger was one of the managers rumoured to have been interested in signing the cultured midfielder from Lille at the end of last season, although with the futures of Cesc Fàbregas and Samir Nasri unresolved, that interest never translated into a bid. Newcastle United got there first.
The Magpies are just one of the top-flight English clubs with a strong French influence, and Cabaye credits Wenger with inspiring the flow of talent across the Channel.
“Before Wenger there were not many French players in the Premier League,” noted the 26-year-old.
“Maybe after his success, some French players think it is a good championship for French players to come here. That is probably why so many have come over to try to be a success.”
Hatem Ben Arfa, Gabriel Obertan and Sylvain Marveaux are compatriots at St James’ Park. Demba Ba and Mehdi Abeid also grew up in France.
Wenger (pictured below) remains well thought of in France, and Cabaye thinks his reputation ought to be stronger in the country he has called home since 1996.
“When I was very young Arsène Wenger was at Monaco,” he recalled. “He has a big, strong reputation in France because he did many good things for Arsenal. The people like him.
“Arsène Wenger did big things for Arsenal. Now it has been more difficult for him and for the club. I am not surprised about some of the reaction towards him because in football it is very easy to forget the past. Wenger has won many, many trophies with Arsenal.
“I am not surprised by the criticism, but I don’t think it is fair. He deserves just credit for what he has done for the club.”
Cabaye could disappoint Wenger again, with Newcastle and Arsenal both involved in the race for Europe. Finding good form at home, the Gunners go into tonight’s game with a five-point advantage but, speaking to promote EA Sports’ FIFA Street, he stresses their respect for the team who held them to an opening-day draw.
“When we meet up with the French squad, they (Arsenal’s French players) say we are a good team – and they think we could get Europe for the club.”