Returning Ben Arfa Will See Newcastle Pick Up Maximum Points Against Swansea
Newcastle United were the big movers in the Premier League last weekend, shooting up three places thanks to a massive, come from behind victory over Southampton at St James’. Rising from 16th to 14th, while also moving back above Sunderland and restoring the new world order, then going up to 13th on goal difference on Monday night thanks to Gareth Bale’s last minute wonder strike at Upton Park.
With four wins and a draw in the their last six games in all competitions, and three wins from their last four played in the league, Newcastle are finally starting to show the form that took them to fifth place and into the Europa League last term.
League Cup winners Swansea on Saturday are next up for Newcastle in a fixture that could be seen by both sets of supporters as good timing. Swansea fans will see their team as being at an all-time high morale-wise, and the Liberty will be more than up for it after seeing their first ever major trophy paraded before them.
Newcastle on the other hand will hope that the celebrations, parades and interviews that this victory has brought will have helped take the Swansea player’s eye off the ball this weekend; especially given Swansea’s comfortably safe position in the league. However, there is no doubt that a man as professional and successful as Michael Laudrup will be making it his top priority to ensure any potential distraction does not occur.
Newcastle took all three points from the Liberty last season in a game that many fans likened to the sword-swirling scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark. For all Swansea’s possession and passing, once in the final third they were unable to harm Newcastle who won the game thanks to two lethal counter-attacks. As we Newcastle fans can already testify too however, in Michu, this season Swansea do now have someone who can harm them.
There is one other significant piece of timing that should be considered for this fixture, and one that is perhaps going all but unnoticed outside of Tyneside. This weekend could well see the return of a certain Hatem Ben Arfa to the Newcastle squad. Given the length of his absence it is unlikely that the mercurial Frenchman will start the game, but given HBA’s talent, if he is allowed to run at the weak spot in between the left-back Ben Davies and one of Swansea's right-footed centre-halves he will cause carnage.
After the new signings, the return of Ben Arfa is seen in the eyes of many fans as the final piece in the jigsaw. On his day Ben Arfa is a talent unlike most others in the Premier League, possessing the skill, pace and shooting ability capable of destroying most teams.
It sounds a strange thing to say, but in a way it has been a blessing in disguise that his NUFC career has been scattered with the injuries the way it has. I say this because such is the talent of Hatem Ben Arfa, if he had stayed fit for the full two-and-a-half years he’s been in Newcastle, then surely the big boys that are now sniffing around Gareth Bale, would have come in for Hatem. I believe this because Ben Arfa is one of the most talented players I have ever seen at Newcastle; sadly however I also believe that Mike Ashley would cash in his chips and sell him to the highest bidder in the blink of an eye if the price was right.
So whether or not Swansea, buoyed by their historic cup win, can put some distance between themselves and the chasing mid-table pack; or whether a Ben Arfa boosted Newcastle can maintain their form and further progress back up the division, only time will tell. If Newcastle can manage to take all three vital points in Wales though, then any potential late surge for the top ten may just have the best timing of them all.