When Ben Arfa first arrived at Newcastle airport in August of 2010, just after we had been promoted after a terrific season in the Championship that saw us get a massive 102 points and come straight back up under then manager Chris Hughton, we had a young 23 year-old mercurial French international travel to Newcastle to try to force through a move to the club he wanted to play for – Newcastle United – while he was still on the books at Marseilles.
Ben Arfa – was once flying at Newcastle United
Ben Arfa knew all about the great French players of the past, who had played on Tyneside, for former great Newcastle sides, and he wanted to do the same thing.
And while his career at Newcastle didn’t get off to a good start, and he broke his leg in two places at the Etihad Stadium in October 2010, he recovered from that terrible injury, and he was ready and started to play again in the following season, during our American tour.
And Ben Arfa played very well for Newcastle in the second half of the 2011-2012 season, and finally nailed down a starting place at the beginning of 2012, after he stepped up to the plate and did a lot more work than he had been used to in France, and we finished in 5th place in the Premier League – the best league finish since 2004 under Sir Bobby Robson.
And in that season, Ben Arfa graced St. James Park with some unbelievable individual goals, like those two efforts against Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup and Bolton in the league, which Alan Pardew said at the time were two of the best individual goals ever seen at St. James’ Park, and he was right about that.
But fast forward two years and after two poor seasons, when we have been on some terrible runs in the league – we lost 10 of 13 league games in the 2012-2013 season, and in the season just finished we lost six in a row for the first time ever in the Premier League, and we lost eight of our last ten league games we played.
And Ben Arfa rarely played this year, and in the final games of the season he wasn’t even on the bench, as the relationship between Ben Arfa and manager Alan Pardew seemed to sink to new lows.
No one person is to blame for this situation – Ben Arfa has to take responsibility for not working hard enough on the field when he did get a chance, and presumably not following the instructions he was given when he did come on.
Alan Pardew has to take responsibility because here is a mercurial winger, blessed with terrific skills, whom the Newcastle fans love, and we have simply been unable to get the best out of the player.
And now because we are more of a grafting side these days and cannot be accused of being successful, it’s hard for the present day Newcastle side to support a player like Ben Arfa – since everybody needs to work their socks off just to be in the side.
And nobody is a winner if Ben Arfa does leave in the summer, which now looks to be almost certain.
Ben Arfa failed at Newcastle, and Alan Pardew and the club failed to get the best out of a very good player who first arrived at Newcastle, even though he had a reputation at the time for being hard to manage.
We’d still love to see Ben Arfa stay on Tyneside for next season, even though he will be in the final year of his five year contract, and maybe also Sylvain Marveaux, who we haven’t seen the best of in his three years on Tyneside – but he’s another good player with good skills.
But it’s very likely that both players will leave the club this summer and everybody will lose – the player(s), the manager, the club and the Newcastle fans.
And we still think if Ben Arfa does leave, he will be picked up by a Champions League club – and that’s a statement in itself.