The thing with Hatem Ben Arfa – whether or not you are put off by his apparent lack of work ethic, habit of holding onto the ball just that little bit too long, or his choice to take on the impossible shot rather than a simple pass to a team mate nearly every match – is the fact that he is simply unplayable on his day.
After arriving in Tyneside in 2010, the finesse-friendly Frenchman’s daring goals, and even more exciting street-style skills on the pitch, saw Alan Pardew’s former favourite become an integral part of the Newcastle side that finished so impressively in 5th place in the 2011/12 campaign.
Now though, since being thrown back to the Magpies after Hull City saw fit to dismiss him early from his loan spell, just what has gone wrong for the once untouchable Hatem Ben Arfa?
Alongside the likes of Samir Nasri and Karim Benzema, Ben Arfa was widely considered to be one of the rising stars of the illustrious French national set-up. Many within the footballing community saw the young maverick as someone who could go all the way to the top, and when Ben Arfa started putting in show-boating, yet effective, performances for Marseille back in the late 2000’s, everything seemed to be going right for the current Newcastle United reject.
Throughout his initial career, Ben Arfa wowed fans wherever he went with his scary ball control, ability to score screamer after screamer, and feisty desire to want to successfully take on the entire opposition. When his overall skill-set was analysed back then, his lack of defensive ethic and argumentative nature just didn’t matter – his goals, runs and assists were simply all that mattered. There were however clear warning signs on the table already….
Since then, things haven’t exactly gone smoothly for the former French international. Ben Arfa has been plagued by a series of testing injuries whilst at St. James’ Park, and although he initially made good progress from his first major set-back, the exciting talent seemed to stall as his time on the physio table started to add up.
The former Newcastle no.10 didn’t help himself either, as after coming back overweight on several occasions to the dismay of a bewildered Alan Pardew, Ben Arfa’s mental attitude did not seem in the right place to be trusted on the pitch.
Such a turnaround in fortunes may not be exclusively his fault however. The former Marseille and Lyon man was always a prominent attacker, he never favoured the defensive side of the game and always seemed reluctant to want to track back and win the ball. In other words, Hatem Ben Arfa is a creative attacking midfielder, not a centre-mid, and certainly not a winger.
This however seemed to go unnoticed by Pardew, as although the Magpies boss initially played Ben Arfa in his preferred role, he ended up placing his once perfect star on the wing, wanting him to do things that his attack minded personality could never muster.
Whoever is to blame in this situation, it is Hatem Ben Arfa who has suffered as a result. His unceremonious early dismissal from Hull City, a side who are struggling in the Premier League and could do with all the help they can get at the moment, says a great deal about this former star’s character and dying ability to make it in the Premier League.
After falling out of favour at Marseille, Newcastle and now even the Tigers, god knows what awaits Hatem Ben Arfa in his attempts to restore his career back in Ligue 1 with OGC Nice. His attitude is certainly going to have to change, but at a surprisingly young age of only 27-years-old, a resurrection might just be on the cards for this once brilliant player.