Newcastle United are currently enjoying a solid start to the new season with five draws and one win from their opening seven league games, with manager Eddie Howe having impressively stabilised the club following his appointment last year.
After the turbulence and doom and gloom that surrounded his predecessor Steve Bruce’s stint in charge, the former Bournemouth boss – as well as a change of ownership – has renewed belief among both the club and its supporters, with the Magpies no longer merely looking over their shoulder.
For all the plaudits that the 44-year-old has been receiving of late – having been praised for the “top-class job” he has done by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola – there is still a long way to go before the newly-ambitious Tynesiders can truly begin to threaten at the top half of the table.
Despite having only recently signed Alexander Isak for a club-record fee to help bolster their attack, the northeast side still appear somewhat light on attacking options, with far too much responsibility still on the shoulders of the mercurial, Allan Saint-Maximin, who led the way last term for the club with ten goal contributions in all competitions.
The Frenchman had enjoyed a fine start to the season prior to his recent injury absence, with one goal and two assists from his opening four league games, with his average match rating thus far of 7.53, as per Sofascore, the highest among the Newcastle squad, as well as the eighth-best record in the Premier League.
The former Nice man offers a real potent threat down the left flank as a result of his devastating speed and sheer unrivalled trickery, with his innate quality in possession seeing him rank in the top 1% among those in his position across Europe’s top five leagues for dribbles completed.
The £36m-rated ace could well benefit from having another figure to also chip in creatively, however, with Miguel Almiron seemingly not a natural fit on the right flank, with a potential icon from the past in Hatem Ben Arfa one man that may well have been a possible solution in his prime.
Although it may appear something of a creative overload to have two maverick talents in the side in the form of the former France international and his compatriot Saint-Maximin, the latter man’s importance to Howe’s side would seemingly illustrate that the Magpies boss would also allow Ben Arfa to flourish.
The now-veteran playmaker had originally been signed by the St James’ Park outfit on an initial loan deal back in August 2010, with manager Chris Hughton bringing him to England from Ligue 1 side Marseille.
While the “majestic” fleet-footed star – as dubbed by journalist Liam Canning – was not able to remain consistent during his time at the club, for a brief time he was simply a true genius, notably registering 11 goal contributions in just 26 league games during the 2011/12 season.
The former Lyon man – who had been snapped up permanently by Alan Pardew in January 2011 – notably netted a stunning solo goal in a win over Bolton Wanderers in April 2012, picking the ball up from inside his own half before expertly weaving his way through the opposition.
With the club already having a figure such as Saint-Maximin who can produce such moments of quality, it would pure, joyful attacking carnage to also see Ben Arfa terrorising defences with his sheer brilliance, with it a mouthwatering thought as to having both men lining up on either wing.
Of course, the latter man’s time at the club ultimately ended in frustration as he struggled for form and fitness, before departing in 2015, although supporters would likely jump at the chance to have a peak version of the now-35-year-old back at Newcastle.