Can Hatem Ben Arfa Provide The Spark Newcastle Need?

Somewhere, somehow, it all went drastically wrong for Newcastle United last season. Things didn’t improve over the summer with the controversial appointment of Joe Kinnear as the new director of football as well as the unnecessary drama that was caused by Papiss Cisse not wanting to wear Wonga but deciding to in the end anyway.

Kinnear’s bizarre and embarrassing radio interview, where he mispronounced numerous players names and got facts wrong, was something the club could have done without too but Alan Pardew will be keen to focus on the positives rather than the negatives ahead of the new season.

For one, he has Papiss Cisse on board after all that bother with Wonga and last season’s leading goal scorer will be key to Newcastle heading back in the direction of the Champions League rather than scrapping it out in a relegation battle, as they did last season.

Equally important, though, in my opinion is the return of playmaker Hatem Ben Arfa who, after spending the most of the 2012/2013 campaign on the sidelines, is now fully fit in time for the new season and has had the benefit of a full pre-season.

Ben Arfa was in scintillating form during the 2011/2012 season in which Newcastle almost broke into the top four. He was the team’s creative hub and his vision and skill gave Newcastle a very dangerous threat in the final third. 

The Frenchman’s versatility is key, too, as he can be deployed on the wing, behind the striker (in the no. 10 role) or as an attacking midfielder. If Ben Arfa can rediscover his form from two years ago than Newcastle could be a dark horse for a surge into the top six. 

Pardew will be eager to prove that last season was merely a blip, and that all the French players he has signed and not flops but genuine talent who will augment the squad and power them to finish in the top half of the table.

However, if Pardew is unable to do that then it may be time for him to leave the North East as the club’s passionate fans will not tolerate the kind of mediocrity that was on display last season.