There are more questions than answers at Newcastle United at the moment most of which are about goings on behind the scenes, but there is one pertinent question about Hatem Ben Arfa. He was tipped for greatness from a young age in France after his time at Clairefontaine, but he has failed to live up to his potential.
His attitude proved to be a problem during his time in France at Lyon and Marseille, but that has improved at Newcastle as he has become less of a trouble maker. Other issues have arisen like his weight and his lack of work rate, while his selfish play in the final third continues to harm to the side.
His best period in a Newcastle shirt was the back end of the 2011/12 season as he became crucial in a 4-3-3 alongside Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba, but this formation was ditched at the start of the next campaign as Ba wanted to play down the middle. His scintillating form in the first half of 2012 was part of the reason Newcastle finished 5th. The change in formation led to Ben Arfa’s form dropping, while injuries affected his mentality and led to him gaining weight. Even now it’s noticeable that the Frenchman isn’t completely fit and it’s certainly affecting his performances on the pitch. Many believe his weight was part of the reason he has spent the majority of this season on the bench.
Alan Pardew likes to have a hard working team and has been known to leave out so called luxury players which is why it is unsurprising Ben Arfa isn’t as key for Newcastle as many believe he should be. Newcastle’s best period of the season came with hard working wingers in Moussa Sissoko and Yoan Gouffran, while Ben Arfa’s lack of work rate can lead to the right back being exposed. Also the winger has a tendency to try and do everything on his own, which can lead to wasted possession in the final third.
The most frustrating thing for Pardew and the Newcastle fans is that he has the talent to be the key player in the side and on occasions he shows that, but he is too inconsistent. The sale of Cabaye should have led to Ben Arfa taking over the mantle as the lynch-pin of the side and early indications suggested that he would. He was excellent against Norwich, as he was a lot less selfish making several brilliant through balls behind the Canaries’ back four, but he hasn’t repeated that performance in either of the next two matches.
With a year and a half left on his contract, both Newcastle and Ben Arfa are approaching a huge decision with what comes next in the winger’s career. He’ll either become more consistent for the remaining matches this season, become a key part of the side and then get a new contract if the Frenchman wants to stay. Or he’ll be sold in the summer as Mike Ashley will not want to allow the winger to run down his contract when he can recoup the £5m he paid for the winger. It’s going to be an interesting few months for Ben Arfa as his future is likely to be decided in this period.