Hatem Ben Arfa and Yoan Gouffran could be set to start against Southampton at the weekend.
Ben Arfa has been out for two months after suffering a recurrence of a hamstring injury in the defeat against Fulham in December and should have been back in action by now although a virus has delayed his return while Gouffran managed to avoid serious injury against Tottenham when the worst was feared for the new signing from Bordeaux.
Both are unlikely to make the trip to Ukraine and will be kept back on Tyneside with a view to starting them against Southampton. Those are the words of Alan Pardew who revealed such at an event held in honour of Sir Bobby Robson’s 80th birthday although I confess that I’ve only heard that through people who were present and can’t find any concrete quotes just yet. He also said he’ll be naming his strongest available side on Thursday just in case you’re interested.
It’s an exciting prospect in truth and we’re almost at the point where we have a fully fit squad to choose from. With Ben Arfa on one side and Gouffran on the other there is real attacking threat on each side of the pitch, supplemented by a surprisingly attacking Moussa Sissoko operating in the space behind Papiss Cisse.
Finally we’re in a position to name our strongest side which is something we’ve been waiting too long for. There is real potential in this team and I honestly believe that this squad is one of the best we’ve had since the days of Sir Bobby Robson.
The task is to secure Premier League safety first and foremost before kicking on and seeing just how high we can finish in what has been an awful season for us compared to last term. With a full squad to choose from and quality available to us that task should, in theory, be made a lot easier and perhaps we could progress in the Europa League to boot?
Are things looking up finally?