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Jan 30, 2013

Toon French influx 'following Arsenal'

The man behind Newcastle United's French invasion has admitted the north-east club hope to emulate Arsenal's past success with players from the opposite side of the Channel.

•  Blog: Bonjour! Bonjour!

As the club's chief scout since 2010, Graham Carr has engineered the arrival of 11 players from Ligue 1, including five in the current transfer window alone.

Four of them played a part in Newcastle's 2-1 victory at Aston Villa on Monday, and although the result still leaves Alan Pardew's side languishing in the lower reaches of the Premier League, Carr hopes the Frenchmen can help provide the required boost to steer the club to safety before working towards sustained success.

"We're going to try and get close to what Arsenal did, an excellent model, but you have to be realistic. Arsenal had [Thierry] Henry, [Emmanuel] Petit and [Patrick] Vieira, who were among the best players in the world," he told L'Equipe. "At Newcastle, that's not yet the case."

While Carr refuted the idea a French coach would be the perfect fit at St James' Park, he believes Pardew would back him if he recommended the club's chequebook be opened once again for another raid on the French top-flight.

"I love France and French players. If we're recruiting them it's because we've had a lot of fun and success working with Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye. They're really good players, very professional, indispensable today. They're intelligent, understand quickly what you want, and have a very good tactical culture," Carr, who saw some 20 Ligue 1 games in January alone, said. "It's because French youth academy training is excellent, really. Our wish was to recruit young players with a future, such as [Mapou] Yanga-Mbiwa, [Massadio] Haidara, [Moussa] Sissoko. They're young and are going to progress further."

Cabaye and Ben Arfa's displays in black-and-white have earned them adoration, and Sissoko was singled out for praise by Pardew after the Villa match. The midfielder, picked up from Toulouse last week, provided the pass for Papiss Cisse to score before Cabaye added a decisive second goal.

"We would not have won without him," Pardew said.

Vindicated by their performances on the pitch, Carr hit back at the critics, which have included Premier League veterans Vieira and Steed Malbranque recently, who claim the French players will form a dressing-room clique, undermining team spirit.

"I'm convinced it'll go well. I don't agree with those who think the massive influx of French players is going to create a problem. Cabaye and Ben Arfa have integrated well, as has [Sylvain] Marveaux, they speak English," he said.

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