It’s been a long time coming, too long perhaps, but Hatem Ben Arfa is finally back in a black and white shirt.
The French international managed just over 60 minutes against Nottingham Forest last night, and if what I saw was a hint of things to come then we could be in for very exciting times indeed.
There is undoubtedly a lot of expectation on Hatem. The fans have pinpointed him as one of those maverick players who can produce the unexpected. Rightly so as we’ve seen him do it first hand, albeit a very long time ago now. It’s not just fans who have earmarked him for special things however as Alan Pardew looks to utilise the former Marseille man “in the hole” as a playmaker.
Time will tell on that one of course, but the signs were promising. Last night he showed some great touches and creative passing despite being marked by numerous players at the same time throughout the game. I still find it funny looking back and watching him beat five men right in front of me.
Of course it was only Nottingham Forest and he will no doubt come up against tougher tests in the Premier League, but in fairness to Forest they aren’t a bad side and are better than their league form suggests and for a first competitive appearance for nigh on a year I don’t think much more could have been expected of the talented Frenchman.
As is always the way when a big player returns, the local rags are all over it. The Chronicle in particular have been keen to cling on to the Ben Arfa gravy train and have interviewed him almost straight away.
First off Hatem spoke about the fans and how they encouraged him throughout his injury lay-off. The club was inundated with get well messages in the aftermath of the horrific leg break injury that Ben Arfa suffered at Manchester City last season and he commented at the time about how much it moved him. He repeated that sentiment to The Chronicle.
“I’m very happy to see the supporters again, and I thank them for all the encouragement last year,” he said. “It was hard for me, but they sent me messages, and I want to thank them.”
Ben Arfa then spoke about the match last night and and revealed that he is “very happy” with just about everything. The good thing for me was that he insists that he didn’t enjoy watching the game from the bench which to me says that the lad is intent on playing.
Ben Arfa said: “I was very happy to be back on the pitch, and we finished with a victory. It was a very good result, and I’m very happy.”
“All the year I worked so hard to come back, and I’m very happy to be on the pitch now. It was very hard for me, and I’m very happy to be back. I hope we do very good things this season.”
“It was difficult to watch the rest of the game from the bench. They scored, and it was hard, but I’m very happy that we won.”
You may have noticed that there was a lot of use of the words “very happy” in Ben Arfa’s words. A limitation on language maybe, but to me it suggests that he is very happy here… Perhaps it could be something to do with the amount of fellow Frenchmen at the club? After all, he insists that the French crew are settling in nicely at Newcastle.
“We are all starting to settle in at Newcastle nowsaid ben Arfa. ,“We just want to keep the team moving forward and making progress. Everybody is happy here.”
There is still a long way to go before Ben Arfa can be hailed as a success at Newcastle. In fact there is still a way to go before we can say that he is fully fit and can show his best form for the club. He may be very happy with everything so far, but if he can show us what he can do on a consistent basis then he’ll not be happier than me. It won’t be possible.
Welcome back Hatem!