This season has been full of plaudits for various different things at Newcastle.
From player form, to results, league placing and even football finances, there are may things that have brought us positive press throughout the season and which give us at least a cautious glimmer of hope for the future.
The latest person to attract the plaudits is Hatem Ben Arfa after a sequence of stunning performances which have seen the former “enfant terrible” hit form at just the right time of the season. How much of that can be attributed to the player though? And how much credit can Alan Pardew take for his treatment of the player as he battled his way back to what we see now?
Ben Arfa has always had the raw ingredients to become a fantastic player. His skill and vision are immense and he can do almost anything with a football at his feet, which is why a lot of fans have been quick to jump up and down with joy about him.
However there have been deficiencies in his game that can cause problems, especially in a team where “team” is the vital word. Admittedly these deficiencies are heightened by a lack of quality in the squad. For instance Danny Simpson has an alarming habit of bombing forward past the attacker in support, only to be found wanting if possession is lost.
To counter that it means that the right-winger has to be able to track back and work with the team, which has been an achilles heel of Ben Arfa’s. Not anymore though, and now we are seeing Hatem Ben Arfa producing magic where it counts in attack combined with a steely determination to track back and help out when the team needs it.
That can play into our hands of course. You only have to look at his goal against West Brom to see that. That goal came from him dropping back to defend and being able to break forward quickly when we won the ball back. A few passes and we were soon up the other end celebrating a goal formed from his willingness to work for the side.
For me a lot of the credit has to go to Alan Pardew. He got a bit of stick from some fans for failing to include Ben Arfa in every game, but now we are starting to reap the rewards of his approach and, to be fair, the players willingness to listen, and long may that continue.
It’s just my opinion of course, but how much credit do you give Alan Pardew for Ben Arfa’s sensational recent form?