Has Benny now earned himself the free attacking role he craves?

Posted on January 9th, 2012 | 33 Comments |

Ben Arfa's display against Blackburn impresses the boss.
Carved out his niche?
Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew has baffled fans for a lot of the season by not playing Hatem Ben Arfa, but Pardew has now explained his reasoning and how Benny’s work on Saturday may just have earned him the free attacking role he craves.

Until recently, Alan Pardew has seemed reluctant to start with Hatem Ben Arfa, much to the frustration of the player himself who had a few choice words to say about Alan Pardew’s tactics last week.

However, in a recent interview in the Journal, Pardew has explained how he sees the Ben Arfa situation developing on the pitch. Talking about the weekend’s game at Blackburn, Pardew said:

It’s all about balance. His work-rate was quite good, it’s just sometimes intensity that’s the difference. It didn’t help in the first half that Mehdi stepped off a little bit and was a little bit too deep and therefore that didn’t help Hatem either. It all sort of combined.

I was really pleased with his attitude when he went on to the right. He could have gone, ‘What am I doing out here?’ but he attacked the position. That’s really pleasing.

I knew if we got the ball to his feet he was going to cause the full-backs a problem.

Pardew then goes on to lump Benny in with a couple of other players who he thinks ‘switch off’ defensively:

Anyone who’s seen us will know collectively we work really, really hard defensively. Gabby Obertan sometimes switches off and Besty, so he (Ben Arfa)’s not alone. That ethic is what we’re about and it has to balance up.

But, says Pardew, if the set-up of the team is right and Benny’s looking threatening going forwards, he can be excused at least some of his defensive duties:

If he is like he was in the second half on Saturday when he’s affecting the game so much, he doesn’t need to defend.

At times in the first half he didn’t threaten them, and then we’re losing both sides. But second half, he doesn’t need to defend when he plays like that. His close control is phenomenal.

In a football team you’re never going to get 11 characters who are the same. We have some of our characters for whom the defensive side and being diligent is 90% of their game. For Hatem it’s different. Flair and making things happen is 80% of his game.

That sounds like good news. Pardew’s seeming reluctance to play Ben Arfa has frustrated a few fans but now that he’s explained it I can understand it. Pardew is the defensive coach and our long unbeaten run at the start of the season was largely due to excellent work defensively and, at least up until we lost Steve Taylor to injury, we’d let in fewer goals than any other team.

It was working back then and Pardew had no pressing reason to include Ben Arfa in the side. Like all players on the sidelines, it’s all about taking their chance when they get it and it looks like Benny took his and impressed the boss. So much so that as long as there is defensive balance in the rest of the team, Ben Arfa has just bagged himself a free role to go and attack defences as he sees fit.

Perhaps Hatem Ben Arfa will be a more regular feature of the starting XI from now on.

NUFCBlog Author: Hugh de Payen I'm a baby-boomer of the punk rock persuasion, currently exiled in Somerset for crimes committed in a previous life where locals keep trying to poison me with something called 'scrumpy'. Hates sprouts, coat-hangers, Cilla Black, ornaments, Steven Seagull movies and 50 Cent (he's not worth 10). Hugh de Payen has written 634 articles on this blog.

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33 Responses

  1. Difficult one Hugh.

    I sometimes feel Hatem is a round peg in a square hole team. However, his goals against Bolton and ManU demonstrates that he (unlike Obertan and Best) knows where their net is, if not ours. He has been given a chance through circumstances and has taken it and done well and therefore deserves a starting place on merit. What is best position is I do not know, perhaps Pardew doesn’t either but play he must.

  2. His best spot is an ‘inside forward/in the hole, with freedom to roam’ imv. He can do wing work but it seems he prefers more freedom than just being ‘stuck on the wing’.
    He has more skills/tricks than most of our other players.

    He should get more time to prove himself now, with Ba away to Africa. We’ll have to change our game to suit him a bit, but could bode well for later in the season. It gives us an option.

  3. BTW,

    that was some nice crowd behaviour at liverpool the other night.
    I guess the suarez debacle has opened a right can of worms?

    This is what happens when coaches ‘support'(?) racism, i guess?

  4. Clint @ 2

    ‘..inside forward/in the hole..’

    I think that’s the problem because when Ba is playing ,being a very mobile forward, he tends to cover areas on the pitch that Ben Arfa would. Ba appears to like having a big centre forward (Best or Shola) to partner that will muscle against their central defenders.

    Perhaps, instead of having a winger like Obertan whose game is all about pace, Pardew should use Ben Arfa on the wing but with a remit to roam. I suppose it’s a balance between attack and helping out Simpson. Certainly if Pardew uses Ben Arfa on the wing more coaching of Danny Simpson is required.

    Albeit it’s early days but the partnership between Santon and Jonas looks very promising both in defence and attack. I did like how Santon moved very quickly and comfortably out of defence into midfield. I can see him getting into their box very quickly without a marker.

    One door closes and another opens, me thinks.

  5. Clint,

    Could be. This is where Pardew earns his crust. However, we have done really well with 4-4-2 and so I’m sure Pardew has thought about ‘if it ain’t bust…’.

    But, a nice problem to have sitting in 7th place.

  6. Maybe a 4321 then. i.e. 5 in midfield, HBA being one of ’em, getting wide occasionally.

  7. i think pardew toyed with the idea of a free role for ben arfa the other day against Man u.

    we played zonal and it worked. but one thing i did notice was tiote covering simpson from the middle of the field instead of obertan.

    there isnt much difference in tiote moving back from the middle of the park to obertan moving back from the right.

    if tiote was cover for simpson that would leave ben arfa free to roam the right. if you noticed his goal the other day against blackburn. he was moved to the right but moved in field and took it from there.

    personally i would play arfa wide, if he is free he can move into the center if there is space to do so.

    if he loses the ball on the wing let tiote cover and ben arfa slip into the space vacated by tiote and let him roam.

    i think we have played well in defense because our wingers have got back quick, if it aint broke dont fix it but ive stopped defending obertan, i think he needs some time away. maybe France on loan to get his confidence back.

    i think best wins too many balls, wins too much in the air and feeds ba quite well. Ameobi wins nowt in the air i think ive seen him win one head and that was when ba scored against Man u. he has no doubt upped his game over the last few games but for mem too little too late. he needs to stop going down like a fairy and stay on his feet.

    IMO Best covers too much ground to drop him for Ben Arfa but obertan can step aside and let tiote cover simpson and let ben arfa roam the right.

    now is the time to tinker with tiote and Ba away. Guthrie is back in training so things might work out well.

    i dont think we will miss Tiote as much since guthrie is back but i think Ameobi needs to make sure he wins the ball in the air alot more.

    personally Best and Vuckic up front benny on the right

    job done

  8. Put Benny on the RW and let him have a free role. That way everyone is happy and keeps Obertan out.

    Signed Cabaye on Pes 2012 MLO last night, time to smash some teams online with him!

  9. Ameobi is much better with the ball to feet than in the air. Just cos he’s tall ‘n all that. Though he does win headers too.
    Best holds the ball up great, just check Jonas goal on sat.
    Obertan has played less than 20 games in england, give him a break.

  10. clint i agree Obertan need a break.

    but expense for better players?

    i agree with his lack of game time and i agree people should get off his back.

    he has immense talent which maybe, in two years, be perfected but in the mean time we need someone on form and its clear benny is back.

    ronaldo was a plank when he first played for man u. people booed him, he was just the same as obertan. a few years in the reserves and a boot to the face of becham later and he is the prodical son.

    obertan may very well become the next ronaldo but he needs a break away from lime light like ronaldo did, and he needs to work on his personal issues, confidence etc before he eats himself alive.

    and i heard the other day, did you know we turned down Christiano Ronaldo who finished runner up in the european young player of the year for the winner that particular year? any idea who we got instead?

  11. Jaysus ! did’nt know we had so many tacticians on the blog!
    Stephen C says.
    Ronaldo was a plank @ Man. U when he first played for them, just the same as Obertan ?
    Who by the way has immense talent.
    Is this a serious statement ?

    You still on with the nonsense, Ba is a very mobile player, therefor he and HBA are incompatable as they play the same role.
    Christ! wish we had six mobile players like Barca and were playing a twenty first century game, not worried who is on the wing and who is in the middle.

    As for Pardew not worrying about HBA’s defensive role, not unlike SBR giving up on Robert, due to the fact his attacking play more than made up for his lack of defensive effort, sometimes you gotta adapt!

    I remember when N”Zogbia and Duff played to-gether on the left, constantly interchanging and causing confusion, with the oppositions defenders.
    Thats the kind of football i wanna see, not this BSA syle of direct football.
    With the type of players we have at present (Techncally gifted, pacey,) we should be mixing things up, not playing fifties style football.
    But then we would need a manager for that to happen i guess.

  12. Ginola did nothing defensively. There again he only scored 6 goals too. Some beauties though, that one v ferencvaros & the manure one.

    Attackers should defend up front when they lose the ball.
    Then get back for corners etc.

  13. Clint @ 14

    ‘…Attackers should defend up front when they lose the ball…’

    That is one of the key characteristics of Barcelona as much as their attacking flair. You don’t see Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Villa or any of the others moaning, groaning or sulking when they have lost the ball.

  14. chuck if you do a search for vids of ronaldo when he was younger you will see. he tried to do the tricks he did so well later on, but in his younger days couldn’t muster up anything.

    he was restricted to reserve and league cup games.

    sir bobby was offered two players, turned down one bought the other for £8.5 million. Arsenal tried to pick up the deal after us but in 2003 Man u bought him instead for £12 million.

    obviously Hugo Viana was the right buy at the time, being the european young player of the year at the time.

  15. Stepen
    Yeah well !
    Cant win em all, i guess.
    Though SBR was a decent judge of players, he like everyone else has made poor choices, hell with the title young player of the year, you would believe it was a lock, No?

  16. chuck i think SBR had a bad reputation for buying players if you head over to NUFC.com take a look at the transfers theres shed loads of players that did nothing.

    must admit Parduex has done ok, ill reserve judgment on obertan.

    the transfer policy seems to be working. instead of sifting for gold separating the stones and dirt from the gold. we seem to be sifting the gold from the dirt and getting more gold.

    and maybe, when we say mike doesnt know how to run a football club, whose to say football clubs have ever been ran correctly. maybe mike and lamearse are the pioneers of modern football.

  17. Well,

    we(the club) must be doing something right, or else why would everyone in the 6 spaces above us want our players?

  18. It’s looking bleak for Ba to still be at this club after the summer.. £4m release clause?

    On the Benny subject he somewhat defends with his decent hold up play and allows longer periods of possession so we can push up.

  19. It’s obviously all a case of what Ba wants to do, if he feels settled, welcome, enjoying his time here, he’ll stay!
    If he wants out & on to somewhere else, he’ll go.
    Best thing we can do is make him feel good, give him a new & better contract so if/when other clubs come a courting they can pay top whack.

  20. Why would mike ashley make up this contract??? He is a hungry man and would never do a contract like that! I hope if ba wants to leave he should say it sooner rather than later.

  21. Ba actualy only has a 3 year contract – we would probably sell him at the end of next year in any case.

    However, he is riding a wave of luck just now in fitness & form – by the law of averages he’s going to get injured sooner or later & make him a risky prospect again.

  22. Is anyone else starting to really panic about Colo? He can talk to other clubs about a free transfer in the summer now. The guy is different class and as good as any other cb in the league. He’s blatantly gonna be getting decent offers from good clubs, we need to to give him a contract he’s happy with ASAP! Taylor normally misses at least half a season. We saw what happened when we don’t have either of em at Norwich!! Get shot of Smith and give colo some more money, or better yet use some of the bloody A.C money!

  23. That’s it with Colo, he’s already on a top wage etc. So it’s gonna have to be the right deal for all concerned. It could be his last contract.

  24. Smith must be as good as gone now!
    that should free up some wages like you say toon4eva.

  25. what a comeback by Thierry Henry ! but watch out – Eric Cantona is hoping to run in this year’s presidential election in France.
    Then I suppose Napoleon will be European President & Michel Platini boss of FIFA.
    Why don’t we sell them the olymic games before they go bankrupt!

  26. avatar CLiNT FLiCK says:
    January 9, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    That’s it with Colo, he’s already on a top wage etc. So it’s gonna have to be the right deal for all concerned. It could be his last contract…

    clint, he’s been offered a new 4.5 year contract c/w a £5k/week pay rise – great!

    the only sticking point with it is he will only get £20k/week sick pay if he aint playing – not so great!

    now unless – slim shady – changes his stance on this then there will be only one outcome.

    – & that’s M11 3FF being punched into colo’s tom tom.

  27. This whole “sick pay” I keep hearing about-what’s the source? Seems like a novelty to me, but then players and clubs don’t talk about their contracts. I don’t know if I’d want to take the risk of losing, say, 60% of my income because Nigel de Jong decided that he’d go in for another wild challenge. I know we can’t afford to pay guys who are constantly injured but considering that one has very little control over that, I’d guess that most would balk at most of their pay depending on not being injured.

    Besides, aren’t these contracts insured?