Hatem Ben Arfa has played very few minutes of first team football for Newcastle since joining the club, yet an awful lot of expectation seems to surround the lad. It’s as if he’s the missing piece to some puzzle.
After playing against Nottingham Forest in the Carling Cup on Tuesday, Ben Arfa is now keen to get his first Premier League start of the season. Benny said:
“All the year I worked so hard to come back and I’m very happy to be on the pitch now. I’m very happy to see the supporters again and I thank them for all the encouragement last year. I feel very good. I have confidence and I feel I will do very good things now.
“I feel ready to play in every match now, in fact I’m dying to play.“
But he may have to settle for a place on the bench first as Alan Pardew is keen not to rush the player back. Pardew said:
“We all know that Hatem brings something special to the team.
“But we don’t have to rush him.“
Which hints to me that he won’t be in the starting XI for Saturday’s game against Blackburn and I reckon he might get 20 minutes or so at the end of the second half depending upon how we’re doing in the game in general.
What I’m still not sure about is his preferred position. His career tally is 27 goals and 19 assists in 184 games and in his early career at Lyon he played as a centre forward but it was the left wing position in a 4-3-3 setup that he eventually seemed to settle on.
You would think that with Ben Arfa on the left and Obertan on the right we’ll have to change our game plan a bit. Those are two players who can run with the ball and to make best use of them we need to play through our midfield instead of over it, which I think would also suit players like Yohan Cabaye.
But it’s risky. Alan Pardew has us in 4th thanks to a combination of a long ball game, a tough defence and a lot of determination, although we’re actually at home this weekend (for what seems like the first time in 184 years) and maybe that in itself calls for a different style of play in Pardew eyes.
Judging by the players we’ve bought this summer – and add into that the return to fitness of Ben Arfa – it just doesn’t seem like our original intent was to play the ‘hoof it’ style of game, so maybe Ben Arfa is indeed the missing piece that Pardew’s waiting for before he goes to a different style of play.