Hatem Ben Arfa has always been a maverick. A player who has never quite made it to the level where his talent deserves to be. Even now at the age of 26, he is still trying to find some consistency. He started the season so well for Newcastle United, scoring a wonder-goal to clinch maximum points against Fulham before putting in another match-winning display against Aston Villa. Since then, he has failed to impress in the black and white shirt. He is now warming the substitutes bench as Alan Pardew sees Yoan Gouffran and Moussa Sissoko as better options on the wing. There is no doubt that Ben Arfa is the most talented player in the squad but trying to fit him in without harming the balance of the side is proving to be a huge challenge for Pardew.
With his contract running out in the summer of 2015, Ben Arfa faces a huge decision. His career is at a crossroads and if he isn’t careful, it could get a lot worse, before it gets better. At the moment, he won’t play for a bigger club than Newcastle as he simply hasn’t showed the consistency to play for a Champions League side. He needs to make it work at Newcastle and play well week-in-week-out before he can think of anything else. The Frenchman has spoken often about his love for the fans at Newcastle but he needs to step up his game if he is to become a Toon legend. He is currently unfit and in poor form and he needs to put in the hard yards to be fulfil his potential.
So far this season he has only created a chance every 80 minutes, whereas he has taken a shot once every 38 minutes. This shows the selfish element of Ben Arfa’s game. He needs to stop wasting possession in the final third as most of his shots come from distance and only 41% go on target. With a player like Loic Remy playing alongside him, the winger should be looking to give an in-form striker shots rather than shoot himself. He has scored twice and assisted once so far this campaign which is disappointing for a winger of his quality.
At the moment, Pardew prefers Yoan Gouffran on the wing and it’s clear to see that he is more of a team player than Ben Arfa. Gouffran has lost possession every nine minutes whereas Ben Arfa has lost possession once every five minutes. The former also wins back possession more frequently than Ben Arfa. Gouffran wins back possession once every 16 minutes, Ben Arfa only wins back possession once every 27 minutes. Ben Arfa (19) has also been dispossessed more than Gouffran (11). One of the biggest issues that Pardew has with Ben Arfa is that he doesn’t put in the hard yards defensively and the stats back that up.
At the start of the season, Ben Arfa was seen as one of the most influential players in the Newcastle team. Now he has been an unused substitute during the last two matches, which resulted in wins against two of the big six in Chelsea and Tottenham. It’s interesting that Ben Arfa has been benched for three games this season and Newcastle have won all three. At the moment, Newcastle are carrying the former Marseille player when he is in the team and that can’t continue. The Frenchman needs to start working hard defensively and offensively to get back in the team. If he doesn’t then his career could start going downhill before he has peaked.