Oh no its another Ben Arfa article… After reading past articles and seeing the recent sniping at Hatem Ben Arfa I’ve decided it’s time to take a moment and advocate everyone takes a step back and reassess the situation.
I’ve seen people suggest he isn’t living up to his billing and that we should sell him in the summer, a notion I find to be ludicrous.
HBA is a player best described as a mercurial talent. A player gifted with ball skills not many players can hope to attain. He has the ability to beat five/six men like they aren’t there but then also the ability to be petulant and stand and not really do a lot. One thing people can’t say is he lacks ability.
Despite the chequered history and being known for the volatility I don’t recall too many moments of trouble with him. In fact the opposite, in interviews he’s shown a willingness to fight for his place and prove to everyone the talent he should be. A player top teams such as Lyon and Marseille let go due to attitude as opposed to ability showing a willingness to fight and prove himself. Sounds exciting to me?
I’ll be the first to admit that HBA has achieved a level of acclaim he hasn’t yet earned, he performed excellently in only his second game (first start) against Everton and looked like a player that would go on to help us move up the table with galvanising attacking play and mouth watering tricks and skills. But that as yet has failed to happen. Why? A serious leg break a game later stopped him playing for over a year. Many experts suggest it takes as long as the layoff to recover from serious injury, some are giving HBA less than 15 games.
No one can underestimate the impact an injury like that has. Psychological factors and fear of other challenges a reluctance to beat a man, none of this seems to affect HBA in fact it seems to have done the opposite, aware of his unfounded acclaim he seems to try too hard, desperation if you will to succeed. To me this shows strength of character yet also a naivety. With careful coaching and maybe a little word in his ear this will hopefully be resolved.
The injuries have also meant that HBA has yet to even play a full season in the Premier League and yet to have a full pre season to integrate and make a role his own. Many players from abroad find the first season difficult. Colo, Enrique, Nani, Evra and Vidic the list goes on. These players have been given time and have gone on to be some of the best players in their position in the League. The language seems no longer a barrier but it takes time to be used to the hustle and bustle of the English leagues. Again some write Ben Arfa off after less than 15 games.
Ben Arfa’s return to the side has also coincided with our most unsettled period of the season in terms of team selection, we began the season with the same side for nigh of 15 games to great success but as he’s returned we’ve suffered injuries, suspensions and the ACoN. This has also led to him playing several different positions; he has played up front, off the front man, in centre midfield and both wide positions. Not ideal for someone just returning from an injury.
As well as being an unsettled side Ben Arfa has yet to play in our strongest side, he reminds me of Solano in that he sees and makes passes other players haven’t anticipated making him look poor when in fact had the player been on the same wavelength would have been a clear goal scoring opportunity. No one can deny having Demba Ba and Cisse’s movement around the box is going to be easier for HBA to play with than the immobile Shola and eccentric Best?
The most ferocious criticism of Hatem has been after battling performances such as Blackburn on Wednesday. I can understand the criticism as he offers little in terms of battle and defensive qualities but surely anyone can see these aren’t the games he’s destined to excel in? I can guarantee however had he done nothing all game and then scored a goal like the previous Blackburn game he would have been heralded as the second coming.
Over the years we’ve had players such as Robert, Ginola and Asprilla who have the same mercurial talents and ability to change a game but they were afforded time and played a major part in the two most successful periods of certainly my era.
The sale of Ben Arfa I also feel would show other creative players that we look to approach that maybe their skills would not be appreciated at a club like Newcastle. If a renowned talent like Ben Arfa is struggling to fit in to our side why would they sign and similarly struggle to fit in. If we want to be challenging towards the top half of the Premier League we need players like Ben Arfa to compliment the hard work of our workmanlike side.
I find it perplexing that the fans who deride the likes of Shola for his lack of ability are not willing to give time and patience to player of Ben Arfa’s undoubted ability.
Patience is a word often uttered in football, but one that is seldom heeded. HBA needs patience. He does not yet deserve the praise many of given him but neither is he deserving of the condemnation that many also have. I don’t believe we can fairly judge Ben Arfa until the end of next season.
I will again utter that word… PATIENCE!