Like many, I awoke this morning and looked at the news, and I wasn’t overly impressed with what I saw.
Now my genius idea of a match thread last night seemed to work, so I set about reading the comments from top to bottom.
I can only imagine the picture on my face when I got to the comment that informed us of Hatem Ben Arfa being stretchered off after a nasty challenge from Roger Espinoza, a look that surely took a turn for the worse when I read that he’d been taken away in an ambulance as a result. Fortunately it wasn’t that severe and I managed to dodge having some form of minor coronary whilst the walls in my front room remained intact. Ben Arfa is of course injured enough to be out of the rest of the US tour, but the feelings at the moment are that everything is precautionary rather than serious.
It does raise a serious question though. Just how important is Hatem Ben Arfa?
I’m not one to read too much into pre-season games, especially not the earlier ones in a country that is currently much much hotter than it is here in good old blighty, but on the evidence of last night it would appear that Ben Arfa is going to have a pivotal role in our season, which is naturally going to hinge on him being fit for the bulk of the season.
Apparently the withdrawal of Ben Arfa meant that we lost some of our creative spark and in the end the performance fizzled out as a result. Now at this point it’s worth remembering that we do have Joey Barton and Yohan Cabaye – both of whom can ‘pick a pass’ and unlock a defence – to come back into the team so once they are involved perhaps we won’t feel the loss of Ben Arfa as much.
I’ve read a few comments suggesting that Ben Arfa is injury prone. Seriously? Give your heads a shake man. I’d hardly call getting his leg shattered in two places by a reckless Nigel de Jong challenge and then twisting an ankle after a challenge by Espinoza (which the match referee retrospectively branded as reckless I’ll add) injury prone, would you? Does that mean that somebody who gets hit by a car is injury prone? No, it’s just an accident (most of the time), and accidents happen.
It is a worry though. There is a sense that there is too much riding on Hatem Ben Arfa – and that goes for management, and fans. It was interesting to see Hatem starting behind two strikers last night, which makes me hopeful that the club are indeed doing as they say and are looking for another striker to partner Demba Ba. If said new striker is better than what we have beyond the Senegal international then perhaps the burden on Ben Arfa will be reduced.
Overall I’m not overly fussed about Ben Arfa being our talisman. Most teams have one if we’re being honest; Man Utd – Rooney, Chelsea – Erm Drogba? Lampard?, Man City – It was Tevez, Arsenal – Fabregas and so on. The difference is that those teams don’t have to just rely on those players.
Hopefully, with everyone fit, we will be just the same, but on a smaller scale. Injuries happen and injuries hurt, not just the player, but team performances. Look at Chelsea last season as the prime example. All that money, all those internationals, yet it was injuries that sent them on a long run of poor form which ultimately gave Manchester United a hand in winning the title.
Anyway, I’m rambling. How important is Hatem Ben Arfa? Very, although with a full team there will hopefully be some shared responsibility in terms of creating chances. Bear in mind that Yohan Cabaye is also well versed at playing the advanced midfield role so he will be able to cover in any event of injury, but I just worry that we, collectively, are putting too much pressure on just one man?
What do you reckon?