There seems to be a train of thought amongst fans suggesting that Hatem Ben Arfa should be starting in these next few games.
These thoughts rumble along the lines of him being “too good to keep being left out” which is fair enough and, longer term, is something that I agree with. In the short term I don’t though, and here are my reasons for that.
First off, after the last time I dared to question Hatem Ben Arfa about the “compassionate leave” which, apparently, was a “misunderstanding” according to Alan Pardew let me clarify something. I believe that Ben Arfa is the most technically gifted player on our books. The players seem to disagree and say that Colo is but I guess that is what opinions are all about. Anyway, to me Ben Arfa is an undoubted talent and it’s only a matter of time before he starts to show it and assumes a place in the first team.
However that shouldn’t be right now in my opinion. I’ve seen little of Ben Arfa in the games I’ve been to that suggests to me that he is ready to start in the Premier league. Yes he’s made a few runs and shown some nice touches, but he’s also had some horror touches and has gifted the ball away on occasion which has led to chances for the opposition. Mention defence to the former Marseille man and I dare say you’d get a rather Gallic shrug of the shoulders in return.
Ben Arfa is quite clearly rusty, which is understandable when you consider that the lad has spend pretty much a year out of the game and has only made eight appearances in just over 18 months. He is probably fully fit by now, but there is a difference between being training ground fit and being match fit.
Getting match fitness is something that will only come with….. games. It’s not hard to fathom out is it? However do you include him on the basis of something he might do at the expense of a player who has played a part in us being third in the table? And if so, what kind of message does that send out to the rest of the squad who have worked hard for their chance only to have someone come into the team based purely on a name?
To me it risks everything this team is about. It’s been said that is a player plays well then he keeps the shirt. we’ve seen it with Danny Guthrie who has come in and done well, and Leon Best who has proved to be an able partner for Demba Ba. How do you think they’d feel if, no matter how well they perform, they were pushed down the pecking order by someone who has essentially just returned from injury? What kind of motivation is that?
Ben Arfa’s time will undoubtedly come, and once it does come I have a suspicion that we’ll see something special on occasion. Until then he’ll just have to bide his time, like every other player has had to do, or risk upsetting a philosophy that has served us so well so far this season.
What do you think?