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Cabaye On Palace, Pardew, Europe & More

30 December 2015

Yohan Cabaye has now been at Crystal Palace for nearly six months, featuring in almost every game for the Eagles during that time, only occasionally being dropped for a rest in the Capital One Cup or - more recently - as a result of a slight heel injury, which he has since overcome.

He's already a fan favourite, the club's top goalscorer in the Premier League and has regained his spot in France's squad ahead of this summer's European Championships, so it's probably fair to say he's enjoying life in SE25.

"I'm really enjoying myself," he says. "From the beginning, from day one I had a very warm welcome into the club from everyone. [Before I joined] I knew the manager, I knew the English mentality. 

"I knew before my first day how things would be and that, for me, was very important. It was very important for me to come here and play for the manager."

Cabaye played for Alan Pardew during his previous stint in the English top flight with Newcastle United, so is well placed to assess how the gaffer has changed from his days on Tyneside. Interestingly, the Frenchman can only really identify one real difference between the man who managed him between 2011-14 and the one in charge of Palace now.

"In general he is the same," says the 29-year-old. "[But] I think he's more involved in the club at Palace. You look at the training ground, the stadium, everything; he's involved. 

"For him he feels much better than he did at Newcastle, I think. What he's done from the start [at Palace] has been fantastic."

Interestingly, Cabaye reveals that he kept tabs on Pardew after returning to France in January 2014 to play for Paris Saint-Germain, regularly tuning into Newcastle games and, from January 2015, Palace ones.

"I followed him, even when I left Newcastle," he explains. "Every time I was watching Newcastle and then I was watching Palace, because we create something, him and me. 

"We have a very good relationship, it's very faithful. He can trust me, I can trust him and that's why I was fully following his team. When he came here I was watching more Palace and became a lot more interested in the team. That's when he called me [about a transfer] and I knew the team before he started talking about them! 

"That was really, really important for me," he adds.

Palace have a growing number of French speakers within their ranks, with winger Bakary Sako joining even more recently than Cabaye. However, language was never a stumbling block for the Frenchman when deciding whether to move to south London.

"I can speak and understand English, so for me, that was not a problem," he says. "But it was nice to see Pape [Souare], because I played with him in Lille, so I knew him before. Even Adlene [Guedioura] was here. Those two helped me to know things; I was asking them some questions about where to live and life in general [in south London], because they knew, they were at the club before me. They knew the place, the area. 

"The French speakers, the English-speaking players, everyone was fantastic with me when I arrived," he adds.

One thing he did know about before joining Palace was the passionate support from the stands home and away, having featured in Newcastle's convincing 3-0 away win over Palace shortly before leaving for Paris. Now those fans are backing him and they have done since his first day in red and blue, something he says helped him settle at a new club.

"Of course [they helped], of course," he enthuses. "The support and the atmosphere at Selhurst and away from home is incredible. They're so loud! The fans are amazing really. 

"That made me happy [when I joined] and it keeps making me happy every day and every game we play. It's always good to have that kind of support and it gives me the confidence, the strength and the power to give everything for them."

Five goals, one assist and a further 27 chances created in the top flight this term showcases Cabaye's incredible creativity and his impact in the final third, something which had excited Palace fans upon the announcement of his signing back in July. 

However, his tenacity, defensive work rate and ability to read the game in order to protect the back four have been a welcome surprise for many, who thought he would be playing as a number 10 more often than not in red and blue.

"I love both," he says. "Being around the box to make a key pass or finish a move, but I like to defend as well; to get the ball, to keep it."

"I just want to give a lot of effort for the team, for my teammates, and to make the game harder for the opposition and easier for us. When you've got the ball, that's when the game is much easier for the team."

"You don't just have to run then," he explains. "When you're in possession it's better, you don't waste or lose energy and you can tire the opponents out. It's important to keep possession and use short passes, then the game can slow down for you. The most important thing is to keep the ball, not run after the ball, then you control the tempo."

Realistically then, what can this Palace side achieve?

"This [festive] period is very, very important," he says. "The thing is, we have to play with confidence. We have a very good team and some fantastic players - the balance of the team is right. 

"We have to trust each other to play and to do the right things, then I think we can be the surprise of the season... Except Leicester is at the top!" He laughs. 

"I think we can carry on and keep winning games. Maybe we could just improve a little bit more about our home games," he adds. "Sometimes we suffer a lack of inspiration when faced with a defensive block, like against Sunderland. We didn't do well there, we needed to break them down. We needed to find the way to score. 

"That's what we need to work on and then hopefully we will stay around the European places, because I think that objective can become a reality. We've got the Premier League to focus on and also the FA Cup is a fantastic trophy. It's iconic, it's held in such high esteem. I was lucky enough to win the equivalent of it in France with Lille and then with PSG last season. 

"It's fantastic to win it," he continues. "It's the trophy for all the country, even the lower league teams can play against the professional ones, so to win it you have to see off every team in England. That's why the trophy is very, very important and very good to win - hopefully!"

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