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Newcastle United: In pursuit of the winger who isn’t really there

6 years ago

Hatem Ben Arfa has been making the headlines once again, this time for all the right reasons.

Sunday night saw him score his latest two goals (one of them a brilliant effort – watch it HERE), making it six in only eight Ligue 1 matches.

Making him the current joint top scorer in France, despite playing for relative minnows Nice.

Yes it is in the lower standard of the French League, but after all, that is where we buy all of our wingers now anyway!

The Hatem Ben Arfa argument is an old one but it still won’t go away.

The opposing views appear to be that on the one hand he was a very gifted player who scores and creates goals, whilst the alternative is that he was a lazy so and so who rarely turned it on.

Ironically, Hatem Ben Arfa was Alan Pardew’s first signing as Newcastle manager, the player at the time on loan but out of action with a serious injury inflicted by Manchester City’s Nigel de Jong.

However, Pardew never really looked to have confidence in the winger and rarely did he get long runs in the team, if he wasn’t scoring/creating then very quickly he would end up out of the side.

Ben Arfa ended up being ostracised by Alan Pardew, the scapegoat for his and the team’s failings. Sadly, the local media in particular were happy to back up Pardew’s treatment of the player and many gullible Newcastle fans then did the same.

The result is that Hatem Ben Arfa was given away, whilst Obertan is still here for his fifth (FIFTH!) year at the club, plus the small matter of some £25m having been invested in Remy Cabella and now Florian Thauvin to fill Hatem Ben Arfa’s boots.

Remy Cabella was bought I believe without any real thought or plan as to where he was going to play or fit in the team, he wasn’t another Ben Arfa who would almost exclusively stick to the wing.

As for Florian Thauvin, we hope for the best and fear the worst.

Why wouldn’t you when you see what has happened in this ever-growing line of French wingers that Mike Ashley allows to be recruited.

The simple matter I think is that Newcastle United are looking for a winger who doesn’t exist, or if he does do then he is way out of our price range/league, in the likes of Ronaldo, Robben, Ribery and the odd other.

Wingers are there to cause problems at the other end of the pitch, not to be extra defenders, which I fear could be Steve McClaren’s thinking Rolando Aarons at left-back!!) as it was Alan Pardew’s.

You are never going to get that complete package, we need creativity and have to accept that this means you sacrifice a bit in terms of defence. If you then refuse to accept that then you end up with Gabriel Obertan, yes he will generally chase back but he poses close to zero threat at the other end of the pitch.

Now in his fifth season at St James Park, Gabriel Obertan has scored two goals.

By contrast, Hatem Ben Arfa only started 48 Premier League matches but had a return of 13 goals and 12 assists in the league. He made things happen.

With Newcastle United’s (daft) transfer strategy still refusing to allow a mixing and matching of transfer targets away from young, foreign and potential higher resale value, we have to accept that wingers from France will almost certainly be massive gambles and you have to take the flaws with the positives.

In light of the signing of Aleksandar Mitrovic, I would have been in favour of looking at some major insurance against Florian Thauvin not been an instant hit.

Yes by all means buy him (Thauvin), but why not look also to bring in somebody like Matt Jarvis (on loan at Norwich from West Ham) or Nathan Dyer (at Leicester on loan from Swansea). Surely both of those are far better bets than Obertan if you are looking to create and win a game.

With Remy Cabella continuing to struggle in France (Marseille lost once again on Sunday against Angers and Cabella played poorly), it is more than likely he will be back at Newcastle in the summer. It is a sobering fact to consider how much money is tied up in both Cabella and Thauvin, as United look for an answer to their creativity gap.

Until they stop looking for the winger(s) that doesn’t exist (French, totally committed at both ends of the pitch, guaranteed to double in value within 2 years) then the pointless search will continue.

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