Mark Douglas, in the Journal, has interviewed former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier today.
Ben Arfa in action against Liverpool
Who’s that guy with his eyes closed behind him?
And it seems the former Lens, PSG, Lyon, Liverpool and France national team manager is full of praise for the job Newcastle manager has done with Ben Arfa at Newcastle.
Houllier had Ben Arfa at Lyon when he started there as manager back in 2005, when the French youngster was just 17, and Gerard brought him on slowly.
But then the French International had his problems at both Lyon and Marseilles, before moving on loan to Newcastle in the summer of 2010, after presumably going on strike at Marseilles.
After being out almost 10 months with a double fracture of his left leg, Ben Arfa signed permanently for Newcastle in January of last year, and he has been in excellent form for Newcastle this year, and Gerard compliments Alan Pardew for that:
“I have to give very big credit to Alan Pardew, because he has made a good player of Hatem.” “The boy has matured and he seems to have improved in a lot of ways since going to Newcastle.”
“Hatem is not only a very skilful player but he is also a very good team player.” “I was impressed with Hatem when I saw him recently. He can stand the pressure now, he has grown up physically.”
“He has two or three people on his back but he can keep them away.” “I know him from a long time ago and have known about him too. He was at Clairefontaine, of course, and I also had him at Lyon too.”
“A lot of things have been said and written about Hatem but he is a very good boy. He is a good character and a good player.” “He is creative and he brings a spark to the team.”
“He brings something different and something unexpected which is fantastic for Newcastle and for France, if he plays at the Euros.”
Newcastle could well move for a number of French players again in the summer, and Houllier, who managed Aston Villa for a while last season, thinks that Newcastle will always be considered a top club in France:
“There is a strong French influence at Newcastle and they are all very good players with good pedigree.”
“Newcastle has always had a tradition of taking young players from France. I remember David Ginola when he came there – he gave them the same spark that Hatem does.”
Houllier was at the recent games at Chelsea and and at home to Manchester City last Sunday, and he was working for the French media, and he could well come back into football in that less stressful environment, since he had some heart problems while at Liverpool and Aston Villa last season.
Gerard seems to be pleased that the potential of Ben Arfa is finally being realized at Newcastle.
For the record Ben Arfa has played 29 times for Newcastle this season with 6 great goals and 7 assists.