HATEM BEN ARFA’S loan move to Newcastle was one of the more protracted of this summer’s transfer window but any doubts the Magpies’ hard work was worth it were dispelled Saturday during the Frenchman’s sparkling full debut at Everton.
Not only did the 23-year-old score the only goal in a 1-0 win with a left-footed rocket, he was also easily the most dangerous player on the field, running through the Everton ranks on a number of occasions.
Ben Arfa has long been considered one of the most exciting talents in French football and numerous clubs were interested in signing him from Marseille this summer.
But the Barclays Premier League and Newcastle was his preferred destination and, after the French club initially declared the deal dead, Ben Arfa refused to train before terms were eventually agreed on August 27.
The France international has something of a reputation as a troublemaker having left Lyon in similar circumstances in 2008 but Newcastle boss Chris Hughton, who confirmed the Magpies have an option to sign Ben Arfa permanently at the end of the season, was encouraged by his determination to come to Tyneside.
“We certainly did have competition to sign him but the lad desperately wanted to come here and that’s probably the most pleasing factor and the reason he pushed so hard,” Hughton said.
Hughton, though, refused to single out Ben Arfa, or fellow new signing Cheik Tiote, who was a forceful presence in midfield on his debut, preferring to credit the whole team for a first win at Everton in nine years.
“They both acquitted themselves well but they were both able to because it was a really good team performance.’’
For Newcastle it was not just the first away win of their return to the Premier League but a rebound from last weekend’s 2-0 home defeat by Blackpool.
Hughton said: “This is the nature of the division, we were the favourites last week at home against Blackpool and it was a game we lost. To come to Goodison is a real tough place but for me it was more about the performance.
“If it was a game we’d gone back without having won, what the supporters would have understood was a team that gave everything. That’s what they want to see, and at the moment that’s what they’re getting.’’
As for Everton, they slumped to a first home league defeat since last November and have managed just two points from their opening five games, netting only four goals.
Summer signing Jermaine Beckford has struggled to adapt to the Premier League and was substituted at half-time yesterday but Everton boss David Moyes insisted the whole team were to blame. “You couldn’t put it down to any one department,” he said, the whole team didn’t function.’’
EVERTON: Howard, Hibbert (Coleman 46), Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Osman, Arteta, Heitinga (Bilyaletdinov 73), Pienaar, Fellaini, Beckford (Yakubu 46).
NEWCASTLE: Harper (Krul 35), Perch, Coloccini, Williamson, Jose Enrique, Routledge, Tiote, Barton, Ben Arfa (Gutierrez 84), Nolan, Carroll. Referee: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).
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