(Not) Given Arfa Chance

Posted: October 8, 2010 in Blogs
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

It seems only fair that the first post on this blog should be devoted to Newcastle United’s on-loan French whizzkid Hatem Ben Arfa. Cruelly struck down at Eastlands last week, just 3 minutes into his 3rd start for the Magpies, it seems more than likely that he will be out of action at least until British Summer Time returns in 2011. Newcastle made one of the shock-signings of the summer transfer-window when they finally managed to land Ben Arfa from French giants Marseille on a season-long loan deal, with a view to a reported £5.5 million permanent deal at the end of the season, once Hatem had played 25 games. However, for the player to reach that total and activate the permanent deal clause will now require a minor miracle following the double-fracture to his left leg at (Middle) Eastlands.

 

The on-loan midfield schemer's creativity will be sorely missed

 

Judging by what he had produced in his 3 appearances (& 3 minutes) so far, he will be a big miss. Even with him in the team, we struggled to break down a poor Stoke City side that seemingly wanted to hand the home side all 3 points in the first half of a dour encounter between the two. He was undoubtedly signed to add some much-lacking creativity to the side and provide some competition for the consistently inconsistent widemen, Gutierrez and Routledge. Dropping the former for a few games apparently had a positive effect as when Jonas returned to the starting eleven against Man City, he looked hungry and inspired and his performance was a dramatic improvement on his poor showing in the 2-0 home loss to Blackpool at the start of September. However, with Hughton confirming that he is neither looking to recall Kazenga Lua Lua from his loan spell at Brighton nor add to his squad in the January transfer window, it seems that he will place faith in his existing squad. Whilst a player of Ben Arfa’s technique and ingenuity cannot be replaced, Hughton has several options available to him as back-up to Spiderman and the so far under-par Routledge on the flanks.

Nile Ranger has shown in the Carling Cup games at Accrington and Chelsea that he can play out wide if neccessary, although not his favoured position. The same applies to Danish striker Lovenkrands, whilst we saw glimpses of the Xisco kid deployed as a makeshift left-winger in pre-season. Add to that the option of Ryan Taylor who seems to score or make a goal whenever he’s on the pitch

 

Ranger has been used out-wide in the Carling Cup

 

(without contributing much else for 89 minutes) and you can see why Hughton is reluctant to want reinforcements. Keeping his existing lot happy is proving to be quite a challenge, with murmurs already from the Scouse Taylor about moving on due to a lack of playing time. This is a problem that will only intensify too, with the returns from injury of Steven Taylor, Leon Best and Danny’s Simpson, Guthrie and Gosling over the coming weeks and months.

So with Ben Arfa out for the foreseeable future and creativity lacking in central areas and sporadic out wide, Newcastle enter a crucial period in their battle for survival. A quick glance at the fixture list confirms that if we are to survive, then several points need to be bagged before the typically unkind Festive Season fixtures in December see us at home to Liverpool and Man City whilst facing tough away trips to West Brom, Birmingham and Spurs. Add to that Chelsea’s visit to St James’ at the end of November and the annual (bar last season of course) pointless Boxing/New Years day trawl to Wigan and it is quite conceivable that the metaphorical black and white stockings could be bare come the end of the year.

It is vital, therefore, that we put ourselves in a strong position going into December by taking as many points as possible from the supposedly easier upcoming games with the likes of Wigan, S*nderland, Blackburn and Fulham all visiting St James’ Park in the next 6 weeks. With points a-plenty at stake, not to mention local bragging rights when the mackems come to Toon on Halloween, Newcastle will need to show a vast improvement in their previously fantastic home form. With the loss of Ben Arfa fresh in the memory, the team needs a new creative spark to light the touchpaper and ignite Newcastle’s season. Nolan? Jonas? Barton? Guthrie? Whoever you are,  your team needs you.

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