Ben Arfa in good books with boss

It was his best game for us, for sure.

He’s been out so long [through injury] you can see a hunger in him

Once upon a time Hatem Ben Arfa was an enfant terrible, according to Alan Pardew, but yesterday he was Newcastle United’s tour de force.

The Frenchman scored one and created the other two for Papa Cisse inside the opening 34 minutes as the Magpies’ triple-pronged forward-line served up an attacking master class to move level on points with fifth-placed Chelsea.

The enigmatic Ben Arfa, long regarded as one of France’s most prodigious talents yet criticised in his native country for his lack of discipline, has been something of a ‘slow burner’ since his arrival from Marseille in 2010.

That, in part, was down to the controversial challenge by Manchester City’s Nigel De Jong which brought a premature end to his first season but, now fit again, his influence has grown as the campaign has progressed — this his fourth league goal in only eighth starts this term.

“It was his best game for us, for sure,” Pardew said. “He’s been out so long you can see a hunger in him. If I was the France national coach I would consider him [for the European Championships] because there’s not many players who can do what he can do.

“We’ve not had one issue with him at our place. But in the past he had a reputation that he was an enfant terrible or whatever you want to call it, but not here. He’s been immaculate, especially this season.”

The Magpies remain sixth, however goal difference alone now separates them and Chelsea.

Yet, with the gap between them and fourth-placed Tottenham standing at just five points, can they make a late charge for the Champions League places?

“I don’t think so,” Pardew said. “I don’t think we’ve got the depth of squad to challenge for that.”

That squad will be challenged by the absence of Fabio Coloccini, who is expected to be sidelined for up to three weeks with a hamstring problem, ruling him out of Sunday’s showdown with Liverpool.

Eleven points clear of the bottom three, there is no cause for panic for West Brom.

This insipid offering was, nonetheless, a surprise on the back of home victories over Sunderland and Chelsea.

“We were hit badly on the counter-attack in the first half for two of the goals,” manager Roy Hodgson said. “We left ourselves very open and lost the ball in areas where we had no need or reason to.”

By the sixth minute the Magpies were ahead. Jonas Gutierrez slid possession out wide on the left to the unmarked Ben Arfa and his cross was clinically converted by Cisse.

By the 12th minute it was 2-0 thanks to a counter-attacking masterpiece from the Magpies.

Starting on the edge of his own area, Ben Arfa played a neat one-two with Yohan Cabaye and then exchanged passes with Cisse to leave him deep in Baggies territory.

Then, shaping on to his left foot, he cut in from the right channel before unleashing a hammer of a shot into the far corner.

It was game over by the 34th minute.

Once again, Ben Arfa was at its core, releasing Demba Ba down the left with a perfectly-weighted pass. The Frenchman continued his run beyond the Senegal striker, who released him with a backheel, before his cross was swept home by Cisse to make it five goals in six appearances since his January arrival from Freiburg.

Hodgson responded by introducing Shane Long and Chris Brunt upon resumption and within seven minutes Long had reduced the deficit.

Tim Krul darted off his line to deal with a flighted ball but his defender, Mike Williamson, panicked under pressure from Peter Odemwingie and allowed Long a tap-in.

The comeback ended there, however, as a combination of stoppages and resolute Newcastle defending stopped West Brom.

It was his best game for us, for sure. He’s been out so long [through injury] you can see a hunger in him

Once upon a time Hatem Ben Arfa was an enfant terrible, according to Alan Pardew, but yesterday he was Newcastle United’s tour de force.

The Frenchman scored one and created the other two for Papa Cisse inside the opening 34 minutes as the Magpies’ triple-pronged forward-line served up an attacking master class to move level on points with fifth-placed Chelsea.

The enigmatic Ben Arfa, long regarded as one of France’s most prodigious talents yet criticised in his native country for his lack of discipline, has been something of a ‘slow burner’ since his arrival from Marseille in 2010.

That, in part, was down to the controversial challenge by Manchester City’s Nigel De Jong which brought a premature end to his first season but, now fit again, his influence has grown as the campaign has progressed — this his fourth league goal in only eighth starts this term.

“It was his best game for us, for sure,” Pardew said. “He’s been out so long you can see a hunger in him. If I was the France national coach I would consider him [for the European Championships] because there’s not many players who can do what he can do.

“We’ve not had one issue with him at our place. But in the past he had a reputation that he was an enfant terrible or whatever you want to call it, but not here. He’s been immaculate, especially this season.”

The Magpies remain sixth, however goal difference alone now separates them and Chelsea.

Yet, with the gap between them and fourth-placed Tottenham standing at just five points, can they make a late charge for the Champions League places?

“I don’t think so,” Pardew said. “I don’t think we’ve got the depth of squad to challenge for that.”

That squad will be challenged by the absence of Fabio Coloccini, who is expected to be sidelined for up to three weeks with a hamstring problem, ruling him out of Sunday’s showdown with Liverpool.

Eleven points clear of the bottom three, there is no cause for panic for West Brom.

This insipid offering was, nonetheless, a surprise on the back of home victories over Sunderland and Chelsea.

“We were hit badly on the counter-attack in the first half for two of the goals,” manager Roy Hodgson said. “We left ourselves very open and lost the ball in areas where we had no need or reason to.”

By the sixth minute the Magpies were ahead. Jonas Gutierrez slid possession out wide on the left to the unmarked Ben Arfa and his cross was clinically converted by Cisse.

By the 12th minute it was 2-0 thanks to a counter-attacking masterpiece from the Magpies.

Starting on the edge of his own area, Ben Arfa played a neat one-two with Yohan Cabaye and then exchanged passes with Cisse to leave him deep in Baggies territory.

Then, shaping on to his left foot, he cut in from the right channel before unleashing a hammer of a shot into the far corner.

It was game over by the 34th minute.

Once again, Ben Arfa was at its core, releasing Demba Ba down the left with a perfectly-weighted pass. The Frenchman continued his run beyond the Senegal striker, who released him with a backheel, before his cross was swept home by Cisse to make it five goals in six appearances since his January arrival from Freiburg.

Hodgson responded by introducing Shane Long and Chris Brunt upon resumption and within seven minutes Long had reduced the deficit.

Tim Krul darted off his line to deal with a flighted ball but his defender, Mike Williamson, panicked under pressure from Peter Odemwingie and allowed Long a tap-in.

The comeback ended there, however, as a combination of stoppages and resolute Newcastle defending stopped West Brom.


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