Hatem Ben Arfa returned to action against Nottingham Forest, and by all accounts was very very good on his return from almost a year out of the game.
This will inevitably lead to calls for him to start the next match at home to Blackburn on Saturday, but the loudest calls, surprisingly, aren’t coming from the fans on this one. Instead it’s Ben Arfa himself who is eager for a slice of the action.
Yesterday it was revealed that he was “very happy” at Newcastle whilst he thanked the fans for the support they showed to him during what was a very long injury lay off. Now he insists that it’s payback time as he looks to quantify the faith put in him by the club and the fans.
“I cannot wait to be back at St James’ among our fans,” Hatem told The Journal. “I was very touched by their support. They were always behind me and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart for that.”
He added: “Now, I want to give them back on the pitch what they gave me off it, times 1,000! I do not feel any pain at all. Now, the coach will make his choices. I think maybe he will get me slowly in the team, but I feel ready to play every game now!”
It leaves Alan Pardew with an undoubtedly nice yet rather tricky problem. Just what do you do with a player like Hatem Ben Arfa?
Leaving aside the obvious need for a change in formation to accommodate the Frenchman, for now anyway, can you really justify ripping the team that done so well at Aston Villa apart? On the other hand, can you risk not rewarding not giving those who did especially well at Nottingham Forest the other night, like Ben Arfa and Sylvain Marveaux for example, with a starting berth?
It will no doubt be a headache for Alan Pardew, but it will be a nice headache and it will be interesting to see how it’s dealt with.
Then take into account the formation, which I glossed over earlier. To play Ben Arfa “in the hole” it will require a change in formation. It may only be a slight change, but it’s still a change. Again, do you make that change on the back of a decent result and positive performance against Aston Villa in our last Premier League outing? Or do you put a bit of faith in the formation that featured at the City Ground on Tuesday?
My own gut instinct is to keep the same team and formation that done so well at Villa Park. I feel that they done enough on the day to warrant another bash at the Premier League together and I think that playing two strikers in Leon Best and Demba Ba will be the better way to go at home where we should be looking to attack teams like Blackburn.
That means that, for me anyway, Hatem Ben Arfa will have to make do with a spot on the bench. Being eased back into things won’t do him any harm at all and I’ve no doubt that the home crowd will still see him in action at some point. Maybe he can be that game changing substitute?
Just what do you do with Hatem Ben Arfa?