Hatem Ben Arfa continues to be a divisive topic amongst Newcastle fans – though for the life of me I can’t work out why.
Surely any sane person can now look back and realise that if they were one of the ones who turned against the talented Frenchman, they were simply victims of Mike Ashley and Alan Pardew’s slur campaign against the player.
We were all supposed to be convinced he was an enemy of the people because he dared to be more than 10 yards further forward than the Newcastle full-back. The whole emphasis on what he (obviously) wasn’t good at – defending, rather than what he was excellent at – taking players on, creating chances and scoring goals.
Sunday saw Hatem Ben Arfa put on his latest master class, scoring a hat-trick (watch the goals below) for Nice as they overcame Champions League qualifying rivals Rennes 3-0.
Hatem has inspired Nice to dizzy heights this season and they are now in fourth, only two points off second place.
Only Ibrahimovic with the back-up of PSG’s star-studded line-up has scored/assisted with more Ligue one goals this season, Hatem Ben Arfa having scored 16 and got four assists in the league this season.
Yes, he wasn’t brilliant every game at Newcastle and no he didn’t score/create every single time – but his statistics were excellent.
In the Premier League, Hatem Ben Arfa started 48 games for Newcastle, plus 28 off the bench, in all playing 4495 minutes of PL football.
Despite Alan Pardew’s ultra negative football and his lack of backing for the playmaker/winger, Hatem scored 13 times and got 12 assists for Newcastle in the Premier League.
Over the course of the 4495 minutes, it works out at a goal or assist every 179.8 minutes, which is basically a goal or assist every two PL matches.
Just compare that to Moussa Sissoko playing in Hatem’s position this season, he hasn’t scored a single goal and apart from the crazy 6-2 Norwich match, I struggle to think of any assists.
Newcastle fans who are still dismissive of his talents, now conveniently forget how regular those goals/assists were for NUFC and claim he rarely turned it on. Whilst now the excuse is that the French league is rubbish.
Nobody claims Ligue 1 is of the same standard of the Premier League but you still have to actually do it!
This season, those 16 goals and 4 assists have come in 2376 minutes of Ligue 1 football for Hatem Ben arfa, which works out at one every 118.8 minutes, which averages scoring or creating a goal in three out of every four matches. Quite phenomenal.
Compare this say to the two players who Newcastle replaced Hatem Ben Arfa with at a cost of some £25m.
Remy Cabella has five goals and two assists in Ligue 1 this season, whilst Florian Thauvin has one goal and no assists.
Including Thauvin’s 420 minutes of unproductive Premier League football, the pair have played a combined 3331 minutes of league football this season.
Between them they have scored or created a goal every 416.4 minutes, or just over once every five matches.
It is often said that you only really realise the value of something when it is no longer there.
Step forward Hatem Ben Arfa.
Whilst Moussa Sissoko is bizarrely seen as a certainty still for France’s Euros squad this summer, equally bizarrely Hatem Ben Arfa is seen as a real longshot.
Though after yesterday’s hat-trick (watch the goals below) he is set to give it everything in the remaining handful of matches to try and convince Didier Deschamps:
“The squad will be named on May 12 and I am going to give everything on the pitch until then. As long as there is hope, then I believe.
“I am a competitor and you will see that I will give everything and until the end I’ll be there to try and reach my objectives.”