Hatem Ben Arfa – Mercurial talent or just a highly gifted individual?

Hatem Ben Arfa
Hatem Ben Arfa has been with Newcastle United for around two seasons, although much of that time he has spent on the side lines after Nigel de Jong’s horror tackle resulted in a horrific break injury.

In that time, we have heard Hatem speak of “growing up emotionally” and reaching a realisation about what he wants from his footballing career, as he endeavours to put his baggage behind him and focus on being a model professional.

Well, it must be said, he certainly hasn’t received much bad press, despite spending a lot of time on the bench this season, and it seems he certainly has matured in this regard. The part that concerns me personally is this… Does he need to mature more as a team footballer?

When it comes to the footballing side of things, I unfortunately don’t think he has matured enough to be anywhere near as effective as he should be, considering his undoubted talent. He reminds me of a young Cristiano Ronaldo, when he first arrived at Manchester United. An incredible individual talent, but a bit of an odd sock when it comes to fitting into the team system.

Ronaldo made a great initial impact, with his trickery and skill, but defenders soon worked out he was selfish with the ball, and crowded him or fouled him out of games, until he became frustrated and quite ineffective.

We all know, however, that Ronaldo, then under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson, has gone on to mature and become one of the greatest players of the modern era. He though, was a teenager, around 18 at the time. Ben Arfa is turning 25 in March and has less time on his side!

It seems on the evidence of recent games that when Ben Arfa receives the ball, he feels the need to beat two or three opposition players every time, and only then tries to make a telling pass or take an outrageous long range shot at goal.

On the odd occasion when it comes off, it looks incredible, and these moments of genius seem to have many fans idolising him, turning a blind eye to the majority of times, when he runs into brick walls ignoring team mates unmarked and in space. Perhaps he is trying too hard to impress?

Yes… he may have scored some spectacular goals, but this approach is not going to benefit the team as a whole in the long run. He is playing very much as an individual, whether we are playing on the offensive or defensive.

Skill does not excuse players from having a lack in workrate.

We only need to see the effort the likes of Messi, Xavi, Villa and Iniesta put in to win the ball back for Barcelona when they have lost possession, to see why, despite their brilliant individual talents, they work as a team.

There are moments for individual genius, and there are moments when its best to just keep things simple. If Hatem can learn to identify these moments for brilliance, and considerably up his workrate, when we are not in possession, then he would undoubtedly be the biggest asset in our side.

I suppose it is not really fair to judge him now, because he has only recently started to get some decent game time, and he hasn’t had the best of strikers to provide ammunition for.

It is difficult to put in crosses and through balls for strikers that are always stationary.

Perhaps it is this lack of confidence in our available strikers which causes him to be a bit more selfish? If that’s the case I don’t blame him. It may be a different story when he is supplying the likes of Demba Ba and Papiss Demba Cisse.

But, what does worry me, is that he seems to carry this individualism, even off the field of play. Apparently Ben Arfa was in France during the teams recent “bonding holiday training camp” in Tenerife. Why was he not with the squad?

During injuries he returns to France, while most other players are seen in the stands watching their team-mates.

We constantly hear from Alan Pardew about Ben Arfa’s incredible self confidence, which as a top sportsman is a fantastic attribute to have. Another former Frenchman, Lauren Robert had it in abundance, and he turned out to be a fine player for us. Ben Arfa has the potential to be far superior!

However, he must realise, that in a team sport like football, no one player can consider himself above another.

You need those ten other players on the pitch, and you need to respect and trust each other.

I still have high hopes that Ben Arfa can become the player we all know he has the talent to be, but only time will tell if he has the mentality to fit in.

What are your thoughts? Does Ben Arfa just need some time, or he just too much of an individual luxury for us right now?

[poll id=”61!]

About JJ

Toon supporter since 1993. Living in South Africa. I’ve been following Newcastle since the days of Andy Cole and Peter Beardsley. Despite all the turmoil recently, the passion only grows with time.

96 thoughts on “Hatem Ben Arfa – Mercurial talent or just a highly gifted individual?

  1. There is no problem with Ben Arfa all good teams require a player of his undoubted talent to unlock defences where mere mortals cannot.Unfortunately for Ben he’s still learning to adapt to the English style of football.Once he gets going and gets more games under his belt on top of playing with forwards who can hold the ball up and feed him, then watch him go, we’ll be fighting suitors off.


  2. Sharpy17 I understand where you are coming from regarding HBA…he COULD be that good. He has really quick feet, and even though you might know what he is going to do you still cannot stop him. Those are the kind of players I want to have in my team. Pardew has to find a way to coach the best out of him and find a way for him to fit into the team. Just watch us go, when we get our full team back. We will have players all over the park which the opposition will need to worry about. The Demba boys being back will give EVERYONE a lift. Anyone who has played football knows how nice it is to have some stars in the team who you can look to to do something special. When HBA’s tricks don’t come off, then we’ll have Mr T mopping up everything…nowts the bother. Howay the lads…


  3. Munich – your right and I tell you the very man I’d use to coach him – Peter Beardsley.

    I remember watching Ronaldo when he was first breaking into the Man U first team. Full of pace, step overs and attitude and very little else. I remember thinking, what the hell has Fergie bought to replace Beckham here?!. Then he dropped him for a bit, work with him and once he realised it wasn’t all about showboating… what a player.
    But it took Ronaldo to realise, I can be another cocky young un with everyone talking about how good I COULD be rather than everyone one talking about how good I AM.
    Thats what I mean about it’s up to Benny, he gets his head down and works and he could be that good, he spits the dummy and he will always be the player that could have been that good. He has to be the first on the training pitch and stay behind when the rest go play golf, not go off and draw the French FA cup or whatever it was.


  4. He needs to firstly find a position in the team. We ain’t going to play a European style 10 behind the striker/s. A sign of maturity would be if he fronted up and agreed to play out wide, as I suspect his final ball will be better than our current wide mens. He then needs to get some games. He play better, and for the team more, when he is confident. At the moment, in my eyes he is trying to prove (maybe to himself) how good a player he is.

    Just my 2p!


  5. Munich – I’m on the NUFC side of the fence, the one that wants all toon players to come good in the end… That includes Obertan and Shola and any other struggling to find form.

    If Benny spits the dummy or doesn’t want to put the graft in – fuck him, move him on – along with any other play who does not want to work their heart out for the black & white stripes.

    But I fancy that he’ll come good, the squad and team spirit seems really strong under Pardew and his coaching staff


  6. Sharpy17…in my eyes there haven’t been any signs so far that he has spat his dummy out, or isn’t putting the effort in. Maybe this is just the media stirring things up a bit. I watched him specially during the week, and when he did lose the ball he chased back really hard to try and get the ball back. I think that he’ll come good with another season under his belt. πŸ˜‰


  7. Personally I think it was wrong of Pardew to criticise Ben Arfa in public about lack of work rate from what I have seen he does try to track back. He isn’t the best at it though because it is not his game as previously stated he is a flair player like Ginola and Robert. If Pardew is going to criticise Ben Arfa in public then why not do it for Ameobi and Obertan who similarly don’t work hard for the team (I do think Obertan tracked back at the end of the Blackburn game but most of the time I feel he backs out of 50/50’s). To get the best out of Ben Arfa we need mobile strikers and for the right back to play as a full back rather than a wing back. This is just my opinion.


  8. HBA will fit more into the team when he has two forwards who can make runs into space or runs ben can pick out like the pass to simpson at brighton ameobi would make maradona look bad HBA is not the finished article but i believe the more games and better quality up front he will be a top player imo πŸ˜‰


  9. Groucho

    February 3, 2012 at 14:25

    Less time time on the pitch than Shola but more goals. He would do better with more mobile striker(s).

    Nuff said!!! Trully biblical comment! Watch and … take in. πŸ˜‰ Test tomorow so you should revise this class.


  10. “Im fed up with peeople critising the likes of obertan and HBA as they need time to settle they have played too few games to judge.”

    LST this is both right and wrong!

    People who are criticising are right – they are only saying what thay are seeing and what is clearly self evident.
    Obertan has been pretty poor with poor distribution and Ben Arfa has been quite inconsistent and at times quite selfish.

    What is wrong is people vilifying the players and people deliberately booing them (even if it is only a small minority).
    I don’t actually buy the ‘they are still very young side” of the argument quite so much, to be honest.
    I hope what we are seeing is one player with confidence problems and one player returning after a very bad injury, both taking time to settle in.
    I think some people have built up expectations after it only took Cabaye and Ba three or four games to adapt to their new team and surroundings.
    Maybe some fans have lost sight of the fact that even very good players can take longer to truly make an impact (Colocinni and Enrique being prime examples).
    These boys need a fair chance to establish themselves. Next season is the time to start judging them.


  11. Anyone remember Benny putting in a near miraculous pass to Marveaux in one of the cup games? Because Marveaux knew exactly where he needed to be to receive it, way up on the edge of the box? I didn’t see Benny trying to dribble past ten men then, he made a magical pass from midfield. Agree with those who say, give him some more mobile and intuitive forwards and he’ll play with the team. πŸ˜€


  12. Well, just to answer a couple questions.

    Some are saying they don’t understand my comparison to a young Ronaldo at Man United. I think the similarities are very evident.
    Like Nobby compared him to Santiago in The Game…

    And I’m only critical to stir up debate. It’s construtive criticism. I too feel however that once Benny has some more mobile intelligent strikers and perhaps Gabby and Marveaux in there he will be far far more effective.

    In the current first XI however, he is a luxury. If that makes sense.


  13. I love Ben Arfa and wish only the best for him – who doesn’t want to see a dynamic talent like that at our club?

    That’s what it’s all about for me – beautiful football. Ben Arfa has that potential to be one of the best no. 10’s in the Premier League and I for one hope he manages it because it doesn’t get more exciting than that in my mind..


  14. …and I will be sad if it doesn’t work out for him at Newcastle ‘cos he will just go somewhere else and do great things


  15. He is still getting used to the epl, i am a massive fan and would love him to be a legend here but unfortunatley i think he will be moved on in the summer as i dont think pardew feels he can fit him in.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Question   Razz  Sad   Evil  Exclaim  Smile  Redface  Biggrin  Surprised  Eek   Confused   Cool  LOL   Mad   Twisted  Rolleyes   Wink  Idea  Arrow  Neutral  Cry   Mr. Green