David Ginola, Hatem Ben Arfa or Laurent Robert – There is only one winner
In these days of no football, I have seen the name of Laurent Robert appearing more and more on social media.
Moments and matches from the past relived.
I hold my hand up, Laurent Robert is one of my very favourite players.
With him on one side of the pitch and Nobby Solano on the other, I personally don’t think we have had a better pair of wingers in my supporting lifetime.
I still can’t believe how many arguments I used to have about the French genius back in the day.
Compare him to David Ginola and Hatem Ben Arfa?
There is no comparison.
I loved HBA and Ginola as well BUT if you were lucky enough to be around to see and judge all three, I find it impossible to understand how any Newcastle fan would rate either above Laurent Robert.
Back in those days when we were more spoiled under Sir Bobby, a vocal minority just wanted to talk about Laurent Robert not tracking back at times.
The goals he scored and created just blow that argument away for me and I have never seen anybody take better free-kicks than Robert, nor hit the ball so hard.
Just look at this one from 18 years ago today, a brilliant comeback from 2-0 down at Derby, Laurent Robert with one of his regular free-kick specials to get Newcastle back in the game…
Today in 2002
Derby County 2 Newcastle United 3
Laurent Robert 73’
Kieron Dyer 76’
Lomano Lua-Lua 90’
— NUFCThreatLevel (@NUFCThreatLevel) April 13, 2020
Criticising Laurent Robert for his defending is like criticising Shay Given and Martin Dubravka for their goalscoring.
The sheer number of goals he scored and assists he got, put him well ahead of Ben Arfa and Ginola.
Ahead of the game at Arsenal in March 2019, Laurent Robert talked about his love for Newcastle United and his time at the club, to the official NUFC site:
“At this time (18 December 2001 – Arsenal 1 Newcastle 3), Arsenal was a very, very big game, a very big team.
“They had a lot of French players in the team and when you played against the French guys, you needed to prove yourself. I didn’t start the game and when I came to play, we were losing 1-0 but we attacked, we got a lot of the ball and we had a chance.
“When we scored, we continued to put some pressure on and we scored two goals after. It’s a good, good memory. In football, you work hard every day in training and we had good confidence in the coach, Bobby Robson. It was a pleasure to play like this.
“I had two great managers in my life: Sir Bobby Robson and Michel Mézy at Montpellier, but Sir Bobby was the best for me.
“We had many, many, many talks and he gave me confidence. When you have the confidence of the manager, you can… I don’t know in English; Légère, the Army… you can fight for him.
“For me, when we played against the big teams like Arsenal, we played to win.
To to win every week. We would walk out and you would never know.
“Against Arsenal, and the teams like this, there is not as much pressure. When you play against Man United, it’s the same; Liverpool too. And when you have Alan Shearer in your team, Bellamy, Kieron Dyer, Nikos Dabizas, Gary Speed, Shay Given in goal… we knew we could beat anybody. In this moment, Newcastle was very strong.
“At St. James’ Park, in England they are the best fans.
“When I played there, I didn’t feel any pressure – I just wanted to prove to everybody that we could win, to prove we were the best team in England.
“I came to Newcastle for that. I wanted to play in the top six and we had a team for that but we had a small group, when players were injured. We finished fourth, which was good (United would end the 2002/03 season in third place and come fifth the year after that), but it was difficult to stay on the top because we needed a bigger group.
“We had good players, the team was very good, but for me I wanted more. But my four years at Newcastle is, I think, the best moment for me in England in my career.
“I wanted to stay at Newcastle but the manager (Graeme Souness) didn’t want me to stay. But for me, I stayed there for four years with my family and have good memories. The fans loved me and I loved them too.
“I know, and I think all the fans know, I wanted to stay in Newcastle to finish my career here, but I couldn’t.
“Sometimes you want to prove something to everybody, to work hard and sometimes the ref… it’s like this, football…now when I talk with my players I tell them to stay concentrated and stay in the game, that’s it.
“Every time, I look on my phone for their (Newcastle’s) results.
“I know this season has been difficult for us, and last season too, but the manager is good and sometimes I know the team has played good but you need luck.
“On Monday, I will watch the game (against Arsenal).
“You can have a good surprise because when the team play away, you can play on the counter-attack. And I know this season, when Newcastle haven’t got too much pressure, they can provide some surprises.”
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