The Fact There Are No Guarantees On What Hatem Ben Arfa Will Do Is What Sets Him Apart
The arguments on Hatem Ben Arfa are never ending and varied but come from these two opposing viewpoints.
One is that you should have Ben Arfa in the team as he is likely to produce a moment of inspiration, while the negatives claim that his workrate and overall contribution is pathetic.
The problem is that like Chinese whispers, the truth gets more and more distorted the longer the arguments go on, especially for those who have it in for Ben Arfa and/or blindly support the ridiculous people we have running Newcastle United.
If you listen to them now, you would think you were lucky to get more than a jog out of Hatem once or twice a season.
The truth is that any flair player won’t produce week in week out over a whole season. You are asking them to do the hard things, create and score goals, plus in Ben Arfa’s case go on mazy dribbles that keep the opposition on the back foot.
The way the negatives talk, it is as though the alternative to playing Hatem is some sure fire winning plan. The truth is of course, it isn’t.
When players such as Anita, Gouffran, Obertan and others are on the pitch, there is a reason why the opposition don’t feel the need to double mark them.
Yes you have guarantees with these players (and with most of the rest of our midfield/attack) but those ‘guarantees’ are that they will be able repeatedly to pass the ball ten yards sideways or back, whilst also occasionally running forward ten yards before running twenty back and passing the ball/buck.
Ben Arfa always carries a threat, even when the opposition have possession, they know if they lose the ball and Hatem gets it, he will be away and towards goal, prepared to take on anybody in his way.
Any sensible manager would be looking to use this strength and have Ben Arfa as one of your two most forward players ALL of the time, thus stopping defenders feeling they can get forward without leaving the way open for a quick counter-attack. You don’t want your most threatening players close to your own goal, you want them as close to the opposition’s as possible.
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Deluded fans will claim it is a ‘safe’ option to pick the likes of Anita and Gouffran but it’s not, if you have a team of players such as those (which sadly we pretty much do have now) then you are knackered.
Last season was only saved thanks to having Yohan Cabaye and Loic Remy to produce moments of magic. Cabaye’s workrate is excellent as well but it is his bravery in attempting and often succeeding in trying the unusual or creating situations that others don’t see, that makes him the threat that he is. Remy is the same threat but in a different way and it only works with him when he has that freedom to sit on the shoulder of the last man or be allowed to stay high up the pitch in the hope of a quick counter-attack.
If players like Remy and Ben Arfa are expected constantly to be covering their full-backs then you might as well not play them…
Which is of course the position that Alan Pardew has got us into. He claims that he’s never had so much creativity in the team, something that fans are struggling to see so far.
As I’ve said, the reaction of the opposition players tells you a lot about your own team, whenever Ben Arfa played he was double marked, he was a constant threat.
Just as the polar opposite, opposing players always leave Mike Williamson well alone and encourage Newcastle to give him the ball because he is a bag of nerves when he has it.
So now Ben Arfa has unbelievably been given away when we have this creativity crisis, we can look forward to at least half a season of Anita, Gouffran, Riviere, Sissoko, Obertan and the rest shuffling the ball ten yards back and forwards.
I cannot wait.
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