Yesterday we brought you the news that Hatem Ben Arfa had launched his very own website, the content currently only in French but an English option arriving soon.

Writing on his website, Ben Arfa has talked at length about his life in England and discusses red meat, pubs, St.James’ Park, autograph hunters, timing of meals and the press!

It is great to see a player coming through the tough times and then feeling able to express himself both on and off the pitch, a marked contrast to the at times lonely figure we saw making fleeting appearances earlier this season.

The world is quite literally his oyster…in the colours of Newcastle United! (Once more we are yet again indebted to ‘Pierre’ for the translation services)

I Feel Good In Angleterre

The first time I arrived in Newcastle in northern England, I thought, “Me, the Mediterranean, I could never adjust to a city as grey and cold.” Then when I started to live here, I realised that the most important was not necessarily based on first impression.  Eighteen months on, this country and this city, I’m starting to really be a fan!

For those who find it difficult to locate on the map, Newcastle is the second city (after Sunderland), in the north of England, located 1 hour from the Scottish border. Moreover if there is a match not to miss in the season, the derby “St.James’ Park” against the “Black Cats” (nickname of the team Sunderland). The city is very student orientated, with a very busy shopping centre and also full of cultural centres (including the magnificent “Theatre Royal”) and lots of places to party. Here, if you do not like the atmosphere of the pubs, you might as well leave the town! The city must have at least five hundred of them. The English pub, there is no real equivalent in France, you stay there for hours, drinking, eating, chatting, playing games and reliving the matches  again …

On the culinary side, me who is a lover of good red meat, I am still struggling to find my feet. The English are very fond of chicken they eat it with in every possible sauce, be it (ketchup, curry …). Meals are eaten much earlier tha in France (they eat between 18:00 – 19:00) and lunch is just something very basic.

In the street, the English are much more “natural” than the French. Their look is much more relaxed and uninhibited than in France. Especially, I envy them to not feel the cold!

What I realised in discussions, it is the absence of taboo subjects. For example, you do not shock anyone by talking openly about money or health. Another point, the person you are speaking with is listening to you unlike in France. However, to be well understood and to really understand it is best to learn English because few people here make the effort to learn a foreign language.

In the street, when people seek an autograph or a picture, it’s always with extreme politeness and friendliness. Even if you don’t always do it, they accept it with dignity and move on with an apology. On the whole you are forgiven everything as long as “you do the job” on the pitch.

Here, the press is everywhere; there must be ten times as many newspapers and magazines than in France. The English buy them by the kilo and you can also read them for free in any pub. The hate of the players is to be found mentioned in the tabloids, with their limited methods. Your career may suffer suddenly and your image destroyed.

In the club, the relationship with the manager is closer and more transparent than in France. It’s very cool yet very professional. Your manager naturally is owed respect and no one would go against his authority. In this “club culture” any disobedience or misbehaviour  will be fined!

28 comments
Ashingtonmag23
Ashingtonmag23 5pts

Have we done enough? I think that we have done enough to improve on last season but thats not saying a great deal. I can see us between 10th and 13th with the squad we have. The three new lads look to be good signings if they manage not to get injured. History tells us this is not always the case though, nufc has had rotten luck with injuries down the years. Ideally they all stay fit and have great seasons but then the challenge is to hold onto them when the big boys come sniffing, will they want to stay at a mid table united if thats the case? Further strengthening is needed if we are to challenge the top half and to look a more serious proposition going forward over the next few years.

wor monga
wor monga 5pts

Why aye…of course we need more…that’s a fact of football life, every team always needs more and always will, but the PL is a league of 6 or 7  well established teams and 11 or 12 also rans, and we have the players that can compete probably at the upper level of the second lot…although that’s probably not quite good enough for those that started in the Keegan era…that’s how it is these days.


...What we need to see is total effort from all the players, and some new and revolutionary thinking coming from this coaching squad, put into practice on the training field, and then adhered to in games…already we have seen some clever  chances created in open play, against a very good German side which on another day…could have seen us beat them.


...Southampton will be the litmus test…they have developed a fast method of coming out which works, and in the last 2 seasons they have used it very successfully up here, but they knew what to expect from us…no real offensive threat…no leadership...or concentrated will to win…


...they knew we’d end up just repeatedly wellying it up,hoping for the best…or pray for a penalty…now with Mitro, Cisse, Gini, De Jong, Sissoko and Aarons attacking them, and Ayoze, Colback in support, that should have changed quite radically…for the better!!

v0ices
v0ices 5pts

@wor monga your math is almost as bad as your logic. for logic substitute support ashley. 

wor monga
wor monga 5pts

@v0ices          All right add 1 to the above if you want…I just removed us out of the equation…cos if you knew anything about the game of football you’d know that you don’t play against yourself…unlike yourself who seems to be exactly the type of augmentative little toerag who regularly plays with himself…

v0ices
v0ices 5pts

@wor monga @v0ices and here was me being kind not even pointing out how many midfielders and attackers you had. you actually said the pl had 18 or 19 teams maximum no mention was made of how many teams newcastle play. of course your only reply is insults hilarious.

wor monga
wor monga 5pts

@v0ices         All of them don’t have to be playing at the same time…ye’knaa, v0ices…unlike yourself, who must be playing (with yourself) all the time…when you’re not being an augmentative obnoxious prat that is!!

NottsToon
NottsToon 5pts

@wor monga Last year we had the second worst defence in the PL, do you honestly believe that the addition of one unproven defender is going to make that much difference?


Think about those players you are asking to get the best from, Willo, Taylor and Colo....still confident?

Paul Patterson
Paul Patterson 5pts

That's the point exactly- Have we done enough? Answer- Yes.

We probably have done enough to keep us in and around 13th-10th position. However, if we were to go out and get Austin and Shawcross or Van Dijk I'd be happy enough.

Imagine an attack with Mitrovic, Cisse, Austin and Perez, we would have a great chance to push for Europe.

wor monga
wor monga 5pts

@Paul Patterson       I’d love to bring in Austin, and another CB (possibly Van Dijk)…because we would have a team that could probably compete with the best in the league as you say…it might happen yet…but if it doesn’t I’d just like to see if MaClaren can get the best out of the players that we have retained at the club already…like Collo, Tiote, Dummett, Cabella, Riviere, Anita, Lacelles… etc!!

v0ices
v0ices 5pts

@wor monga @Paul Patterson you mean the disinterested or below standard players no one else wants not counting lacelles and riviere who both deserve some time to prove themselves.

A lex
A lex 5pts

It's all the same, same and same again. Anyone thinking differently still ain't grasped it.


What happened in the past was that young players of around £3m - £6m with potential for profitable resale value were purchased. Obviously, the big ker-chings in the till were Cabaye and Debuchy.


All that's happening now is that he's buying young players with potential for profitable resale value - - - but just with a higher initial price. As long as individually successful, Mitrovic and Wijnaldum etc will command much more than previous sales.


Same model, just higher up-front fees because sale fees will be higher due to the EPL being awash with money.


If there'd been any serious intention to build a squad and go for trophies, they'd have cured past ills like CB first. And, also gone for an experienced striker instead of one who will take time to find his feet.

JohnyH
JohnyH 5pts

I'd love to see some real quality signings in the defence, and a proven top striker but, you just know that Ashley will carry on doing what he's done every year since he bought the club- just enough. No more no less.

Nutisbak2
Nutisbak2 5pts

Andy Najar looks like he may well be our 4th (or 5th if Ivan Toney goes through and you count him as one) signing. Najar plays right wing for you guessed it Anderlecht!


Having previously provided the ammunition for Mitrovic it would make sense to bring him in and obviously the board have decided Newcastle United just are not good enough so lets go and buy Anderlecht!


According to reports a bid of 6 million has gone in for the lad who has been tracked by Tottenham and many other sides and was the youngest MLS "Wonderkid" ever to win Rookie of the year at 17 years of age in 2010.


Seems potentially another very well thought through transfer.


Guess we just need another central defender and perhaps another striker (unless you count Toney as one) presuming this 6 million bid turns out to be true.

NottsToon
NottsToon 5pts

What's the point of spending close to £30m on attacking talent and brining in one unproven defender to the second worst defence in the league?

We need a PL experienced centre half now, I know the window is open for another 3 weeks but the league starts in 5 days!

NottsToon
NottsToon 5pts

We've needed a new CB for three years, please explain how we shouldn't rush any slower than we are?

If not now then when? Now is too late, and it just keeps getting later. There are no excuses no matter how you paint it.

Nutisbak2
Nutisbak2 5pts

@NottsToon  Even if we were to bring in another PL experienced centre back it's unlikely they would play for another 3 weeks as it would likely inevitably take that long for them to be prepared and got up to speed ready to play with the rest of the team.


If I am honest it doesn't really matter if they are premier league experienced or just a good quality player like Mbemba from another league capable of playing and doing well in that role for us.


Its far more important we buy the right player at the end of the day, rather than rush in like a bull in a china shop to buy some premier league experienced player we haven't been looking at.


The likelihood is anyone with premier league experience is going to cost a lot more than we want to spend simply because anyone good enough is currently at another club and most of those clubs will not be wanting to sell those players this close to the season starting.


I'd far rather we carried on in the manner we have been and buy another 2 or 3 players of equal or better quality to what have already come in, in the positions we need such as Right wing, Central Defender and possibly one of Striker and left back, maybe someone who can cover right back too, although perhaps that is why McClarren used Mbemba there the other day in order to see if he was capable of acting as cover if we ever needed him to do so.

Paul Patterson
Paul Patterson 5pts

@NottsToon  Fully agree with this.
I've shouted his name from the rooftops, but Ryan Shawcross would walk into this back four and be a proper bruiser of a centre back. A far cry from the recent seasons of powder-puff showings of Colo and Williamson.

v0ices
v0ices 5pts

@Nutisbak2 @NottsToon your usual nonsense a experienced center back could walk right into the side and start right away thats the benefit of experience, you did point out the issue and thats cost more and have no increased sell on value sickening.

amacdee
amacdee 5pts

I asked before why we didnt take Caulker on loan for a season ? He's seen it, done it and while not world class he'd be a darn sight better than that bloke running around in a No 27 shirt

tkSteveFOX
tkSteveFOX 5pts

I`m beginning to see that maybe not our players are mostly at fault, but our inept and limited coaching staff.
Players seam to have the physical attributes to handle the game and don`t look stupid, however under pressure they cave and become disorganized and clueless.
Yet to see a competitive game under Steve, but as far as signings come, we've made excellent additions to the squad, remains to be seen how good they are against a competitive team in the EPL.

Mind you I`m not expecting anything better than 10th place finish this season. Anything above that would be fantastic, but anything below 12th would mean utter failure from the manager and coaches.

amacdee
amacdee 5pts

@tkSteveFOX A lot of this game is played between the ears ;-) Unfortunately the current squad havent had a great deal to feel good about in the last few seasons so confidence must still be fairly low. 

SM's trying to introduce the possession game but you need confident players to work along those lines and I fear he may be trying to do too much too soon with some of them. However as we saw briefly last season, a few wins in succession and suddenly they're all trying to be CR7. Unfortunately the opening eight games makes that look extremely unlikely.

killyted
killyted 5pts

who is running this football club?

1} the pre season according to many was an utter shambles

2} 3 players in is a good start,but the defence is woefully weak,one central defender in is no-way enough, remember this back four ships more water than the titanic.we still need 3 more players

Gurvitz
Gurvitz 5pts

Definitely not. We've had 5 players who played 1st team football last season out and only 3 back in. Don't get me wrong - I'm happy with the new signings - they do look quality, and with De Jong hopefully fit we have what looks a decent 1st choice eleven. But with a few injuries or suspensions and we'll really be struggling again. And hope I'm wrong but it looks like he might start with Williamson and Taylor - from what I've seen pre-season were still leaking soft and preventable goals far too easily.

James Finlayson
James Finlayson 5pts

Link - The Weakest - Strong As... rearrange

Or in NUFC's case make that Links, plural.  You know who you are, even if the current board of directors seem oblivious to your individual and collective ineptness.  

Conman
Conman 5pts

Nowhere near enough change especially in the defence. It needed complete restructure and new people in and all we get is one promising centre half who still has a lot to prove.

In the preseason games so far, Williamson and Taylor have shown nothing at all and Colo is absent again. A massive worry.

Midfield ok. But still lacking that defence opener and as for up front. We can only hope that the new guy hits the ground running.

I would say 4 out of 10.

Dubaiexpat
Dubaiexpat 5pts

Far from it - the three that have come in look like good signings but we're still weak in several key areas with defense being top of the list. 


If we have limited funds after the three already in they have to be concentrated on another CB - but I think we'll need to ship one out for one to come in as we have 5/6 senior CB's on the books currently. 

Paul Forth
Paul Forth 5pts

Simple answer: no, we need another centre half and striker at least