Newcastle: Ben Arfa Was Our Talisman But Now He's Gone
'Farcical', that's probably the best way to describe the last few months for Alan Pardew and Hatem Ben Arfa.
The relationship between the talented French playmaker and his colleagues over the years has been a very strenuous to say the least. At Lyon he had a falling out with Karim Benzema and got into a scuffle with Sebastian Squillaci at a training session. At Marseille he had altercations with Djibril Cisse, Modeste M'bami and even then manager, Didier Deschamps. And in 2012, there was a supposed dressing room bust-up after France lost to Sweden at the European Championships.
But at Newcastle, Ben Arfa seems to have been the one figure who has stood up against the 'regime'. Something which the fans noted as they immortalised him in a banner as Che Guevara, with the simply the word 'hope' written underneath. When Ben Arfa signed for Newcastle back in 2010 he said: "I have a real problem with injustice. For me honour and principle are the most important things in life”. This quote is as relevant now as it was four years ago.
The dispute between Pardew and for the time being, Hull City player, shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Both characters are equally as stubborn, but both characters aren't as equally talented. Pardew decided to use the Frenchman sparingly throughout last season, hoping that a string of cameo appearances off the bench would make an impact - they didn't. After the 4-0 defeat to Southampton in March, their relationship seemed to turn very sour - Ben Arfa only played another 48 minutes for the remainder the season and found himself banished to the reserves. Alienated throughout pre-season and at the start of this season, Ben Arfa vowed to get back in the first team saying: “My relationship with the Newcastle fans is one of the biggest reasons why I want to stay. I want to give something back to them.”
That quote is probably the reason why Alan Pardew (or more likely, Mike Ashley) wanted rid of the rebellious Frenchman - he's a talisman for the fans; much like Cabaye was. And while Remy Cabella and Siem de Jong look like they could take over that role, the romance has somewhat faded.
The loss of Ben Arfa may not be seen in where Newcastle (and Hull for that matter) finish, but the sheer entertainment value will be missed. Fans want to see their players taking on defenders, doing tricks, scoring audacious goals and seeing the player enjoy playing for the team. His performance in the 5-1 victory against Stoke last December was a prime example of this. While he didn't score or even get an assist, his trickery, pace and sheer arrogance made for compelling viewing. His two breathtaking solo efforts against Blackburn and then Bolton are two of my favourite goals ever.
With his contract due to run out next summer, it's infuriating that one of the most talented, temerarious players Newcastle have ever had will be spending his last year working for Steve Bruce. What's even more infuriating is Pardew's sheer ignorance and stubbornness as he would rather have the vapid Gabriel Obertan than Ben Arfa. If Cabella can continue his exciting performances the void left by his fellow countryman’s departure may not be that great, but I'm sure every Newcastle fan would rather seem them play together.