We were shocked when Ben Arfa made the starting line up yesterday, although very happy too, but it seems it was a deliberate ploy by Newcastle manager Alan Pardew to catch Spurs off-guard, and of course Ben Arfa was ultimately the match winner for Newcastle yesterday, with an excellent performance out on the wing.
Ben Arfa – blows a kiss to the crowd after scoring match winning penalty
Both Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye had been given time off after participating in Euro 2012 for France, and Yohan was a little rusty yesterday, although he didn’t play that bad, but Ben Arfa looked in great form all game.
This is what the Newcastle manager said in the Sunday Sun today:
“For me, Hatem was the stand-out player today.” “He was taking people on in all areas of the pitch and even got two of the Spurs players booked early on.”
“Hatem won and scored the penalty and you need players like this if you are going to do well.” “It was a little white lie by me when I said Ben Arfa wouldn’t start. I don’t tell too many, but that was one.”
“He looked sharp in training. The only thing we were worried about was that he hadn’t had a lot of game time. The more I looked at him, the more I thought he was ready.”
“He really was terrific today.” “I thought we were really disciplined. We weren’t at our best, particularly in the first-half, and tactically it was a really tight game.”
“We kept our two strikers on, which was important, because one of them, Demba Ba, has come up with a truly great goal.” “I don’t think you can under-estimate the importance of this win for us.”
“But he grew into the match and did one great bit of skill down the wing.”
And it was good to Vurnon Anita get into the game, as he came on for Yohan Cabaye after 71 minutes and he had his first taste of Premier League football, and he looked decent enough, but will have to be given time to get used to the faster pace and more physical nature of the English League.
This is what Alan Pardew said about the Dutch International:
“It was a really tight game and sometimes your character and spirit can see you home, and I think we showed that.” “The other players have been impressed by him in training. His first couple of touches were a little bit indifferent in the game.” “He was at Ajax for so many years and to come into this atmosphere was really difficult for him.”
We are hoping that Vurnon Anita can play on Thursday night against Atromitos, but Shola Ameobi picked up an injury in the warm-up yesterday, and was replaced by Romain Amafitano on the bench, and the Frenchman will also play on Thursday night.
When you have players like Steve Harper, Sylvain Marveaux, Ryan Taylor, Dan Gosling, Vurnon Anita, Romain Amalfitano and Mike Williamson, and youngsters like James Tavernier, Shane Ferguson, Gael Bigirimana, Haris Vuckic, Mehdi Abeid and possibly Adam Campbell to come into the second eleven, Newcastle will be fielding a decent side on Thursday evening in Athens.
But one goal for August, is that we must qualify for the group stages of the Europa League and Thursday night’s game in Athens gives a great chance to the youngsters and our fringe players, to show what they can do in a Newcastle shirt, and also keep them match fit.
Young Adam Campbell scored a first half hat-trick for the Newcastle U21 side against Tottenham in their 6-4 win yesterday, so that will have gotten Alan Pardew’s attention.
And the crowd at yesterday’s game was a sellout – 52,385 – and did you see Anita congratulating Ben Arfa after his penalty – the Dutchman seemed to be loving the white hot atmosphere at St. James’ Park.
I hope my father is watching from up above, because it looks like Newcastle may be on track to follow on from the heroics of last season - here’s hoping.
You can also reach Ed at firstname.lastname@example.org