Alan Pardew has issued a fresh warning to Hatem Ben Arfa and has told the talented Frenchman that he must work harder for the team if he wants if he wants to play in a free attacking role.
Ben Arfa caught the headlines last week after scoring a sensational solo goal against Blackburn in the FA Cup – a goal Pardew described as the best he’d ever seen. That goal came from the right wing though and not from the No10 ‘trequartista’ position that had been earmarked for him.
To me it seems as though we struggle when Ben Arfa plays in that position and the team suffers as a result. We seem to lose any attacking presence as their defence outnumber our lone striker. This is why it’s good to hear that Ben Arfa may be set for a spell on the right, according to Pardew.
“I think with Hatem, if he wants that No.10 position, he has to understand this football club. I am going to require more energy in that role from him,” Pardew said in his pre-match press conference yesterday.
He continued: “We know the boy has talent – you only have to see him with the ball at his feet. And when he went on the right he did absolutely brilliantly and that goal was sensational. But in our team he needs to understand with the team-mates he’s got he needs to put in more work-rate and more effort in that particular role.”
“On the wing it is a little bit more straightforward and it might be we see more of him there in the near future.”
However Pardew insists that Ben Arfa is getting better and better as he gets to grips with playing regularly after such a long time out in what is essentially still a new league and new country for the player.
“He’s not had a lot of Premier League experience and like any player coming from abroad there is a period needed to settle down. Ronaldo, Henry, even Cantona to a degree, needed that time to adjust,” said Pardew.
“I’m not suggesting for a minute that he’s going to be as good as those players but that kind of flair player does need to understand what this league is all about and I think he’s getting a grasp of it.”
“Ben Arfa is improving as we go along and I don’t think he would have got that goal four or five weeks ago.”
So a right wing role against QPR for Hatem? It seems that way. As I said earlier, the team seems to struggle with Ben Arfa in the No10 role, but I don’t think that is the only reason why a right wing role is suited to Hatem whilst Demba Ba is away. I mean could you imagine Leon Best or Shola Ameobi getting on the end of a little unexpected yet intricate through ball? No, no I can’t either.
Of course playing Benny on the right means that Gabriel Obertan will be relegated to the bench. Obertan has been criticised for not getting the ball in the box and generally not doing a lot, but don’t expect a load of pinpoint crosses from Ben Arfa either. It’s not in his game and never has been. He’ll try and run his way into the box instead.
Ben Arfa is improving steadily. We’ve seen flashes of brilliance from him already and he will only get better as he plays more. The good news is that it looks as though he will start against QPR and fingers crossed we’ll see him improve further.
Maybe he can beat eight players and score this time?