Ben Arfa set to return to Newcastle starting line-up after producing ideal response (From The Northern Echo)
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Ben Arfa set to return to Newcastle starting line-up after producing ideal response
HATEM BEN ARFA is set to return to Newcastle United's starting line-up for today's home game with Liverpool, with Alan Pardew delighted at the winger's response to his surprise omission at Cardiff two weeks ago.
Despite being the Magpies' most effective performer in a number of their early matches, Ben Arfa was sacrificed as Pardew attempted to solidify his side's defensive shape at the Cardiff City Stadium.
The ploy worked as Newcastle secured a much-needed 2-1 victory, but with the onus reverting to attack as attention switches back to St James' Park this lunch-time, Ben Arfa is expected to return to the starting line-up in preference to Yoan Gouffran.
While United's international players have been absent for much of the last fortnight, Pardew has been able to observe Ben Arfa at close quarters, and the Magpies manager has been impressed with the Frenchman's determination to address his perceived failings head on.
“It's always difficult to leave out players you like,” said Pardew, who is desperate to avenge last season's 6-0 humbling at the hands of Brendan Rodgers' Reds. “I love Hatem. I want him to play as well and as consistently as he possibly can.
“But sometimes you need to say players, 'Come out, have a look at it, see what you did well and what you didn't do so well, and analyse yourself'. I think he's done that.
“He's trained really well in the last ten days and really taken what we've said to him on board. I'd like to think that when he goes back in the team, whenever that is, he'll really be at his best. I hope so.”
Ben Arfa will not be the only Newcastle player returning from a demotion this afternoon as Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa will also return to the starting line-up after a spell on the sidelines.
Yanga-Mbiwa was hauled off at the half-time interval of last month's 3-2 defeat at Everton, having been embarrassed by Romelu Lukaku in particular during a chastening first half.
He was not involved in the subsequent win over Cardiff, but the absence of both Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor means he will return to partner Mike Williamson today.
That will not be easy after as public a rejection as the one he suffered at Goodison Park, but Pardew is confident the 24-year-old is strong enough to cope with his recent struggles.
“If you take a defender out, you have to say why and give them some solutions,” he said. “I'd like to think I've done that for him. I'm pretty sure he's going to play (today), and we need to get a performance out of him like some of the ones he has put in for this club.
“I think it's very difficult for defenders to adjust to the Premier League, much more so than for attackers. I've always thought that and stand by it.
“Come out, have a look at it, then come back in and show real character. I look at him, and he has got character, there's no doubt about that. I'd like to think he'll show it against Liverpool.”
Despite arriving with a lofty reputation when he completed a £6.7m move from Montpellier in January, Yanga-Mbiwa has struggled to establish himself in the Premier League.
His positioning has been called into question on a number of occasions, and he has struggled to deal with the increased physicality of the English game.
Things came to something of a head earlier this week when Montpellier president Louis Nicollin claimed the 24-year-old made an error by moving to Newcastle and predicted his former employer would return to the 2012 Ligue 1 champions.
That remains an unlikely scenario given that the Magpies invested a significant fee into a player they still regard as a bright prospect, but it is undeniable that things have not gone to plan since Yanga-Mbiwa crossed the Channel.
His bedding-in period has proved problematic, but having watched the likes of Fabricio Coloccini and Davide Santon take time to settle, there is an acceptance among Pardew and his coaching staff that defensive acquisitions often take up to a season to fully adapt to their new surroundings.
“(Fabricio) Coloccini struggled in his first year,” said the Newcastle boss. “The intensity of the Premier League catches defenders out, it does. It's about grasping that quickly.
“Look at (Thomas) Vermaelen at Arsenal, since he's come back into their team, he's been a top, top player. It does happen. But great players will get it in the end.”
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