Now Or Never For Hatem Ben Arfa
So, Yohan Cabaye leaves but could one creative Frenchman’s departure provide a chink of light for another?
With Sylvain Marveaux seemingly consigned to the naughty step for the foreseeable future, the task of creating opportunities for loan duo Luuk De Jong and Loic Remy falls squarely on the shoulders of the outlandishly talented, often frustrating Hatem Ben Arfa.
The mercurial former Marseille midfielder has been on Tyneside since 2010 and shown glimpses of unadulterated excellence, including a prolonged spell of inspiration in early 2012, as part of a formidable trio alongside Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse.
Cabaye’s exit might prove to be the catalyst for his international colleague to start regularly and recapture the wizardry we all know he’s capable of.
Turning 27 in March, Hatem appears to have matured considerably as a person and only slightly as a player, still falling some way short of his actual on-pitch potential.
He is doubtless too gifted to be stuck on the bench at a mid-table Premier League club though, so his recall to the starting eleven could be timely for everyone involved.
Additionally, Ben-Arfa seems far more content to stay put than the departing vice-captain, despite his lack of game time in recent months. It’s easy to forget that it was he who inspired early season victories against Aston Villa and Fulham, whilst Cabaye was temporarily omitted.
Not since the great Peter Beardsley has a player in black and white created such a buzz every time the ball heads in his direction (Ok, technically Andrea Pirlo at Juventus and Liam Hearn of Grimsby Town are both making fans drool, but you know what I mean!).
The things our little maestro is capable of are undeniably world-class, it’s time to show that on a regular basis if he really is serious about that Ballon d’Or, starting with dismantling a poor Sunderland team at the weekend.
Newcastle are in a slightly fortunate position in midfield, a pivotal player can depart and in a strange way it could be beneficial by allowing Sissoko to move into a more central role and Ben-Arfa to return to the first XI. Sadly, as earlier intimated, there is no place in the re-jigged line-up for Marveaux by the looks of it.
With Remy, Cabaye and possibly Gouffran absent against the Mackems at the weekend, and De Jong not yet up to speed, the responsibility for goals could rest with the likes of Ben Arfa and the Ameobi brothers – I know which of them I have the most faith in, despite the respective Mackem slaying heroics and raw, leggy talent of the family duo.
The clock ticks away, with that transfer deadline looming like an unwanted kiss from your least favourite Auntie at a wedding, likely scuppering any potential late additions.
The consolation is that, barring injury, the middle of the park remains the strongest area of Alan Pardew’s squad in terms of the calibre of the talent there – With Anita, Sissoko and Tiote providing the endeavour, it just requires an innovative partner for Yoan Gouffran.
Over to you Hatem.
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