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Will Ben Arfa be leaving Newcastle this summer?
The French playmaker has been a bit-part player over the last eight months because of Alan Pardew’s preference to see greater work-rate from his attacking midfielders.
Ben Arfa had been expected to have a more prominent role following the £20m sale of Yohan Cabaye last month, but he has lost his place again in the heavy defeats to Chelsea and Tottenham.
His soporific performance after his introduction as a substitute against Spurs hardly helped either and he is believed to have felt the full force of Pardew’s dressing room rant after the game.
And with just one more season remaining on his contract at St James’ Park, Ben Arfa is likely to be sold if the price is right this summer as the club would prefer not to see the player leave for nothing a year later.
The 26-year-old is arguably the most gifted player of them all on Tyneside but Pardew has always wanted to get more out of him in a defensive sense.
Due to injuries and form, Ben Arfa’s appearances have been restricted to just 47 Premier League starts since arriving, initially on loan, from Marseille in August 2010.
During the course of 2013 there had been interest in him from a number of clubs, with Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal all known to have at least considered him as an attacking recruit.
Figures of more than £10m were being talked about at that time, but after the season he has had Newcastle could be fortunate to get their money back for a player they paid £5.5m for in January 2011.
The France international, who does not appear to have any chance of going to the World Cup this summer having not played for Les Bleus since Euro 2012, would prefer to play in a position just behind the striker.
But Pardew has been reluctant to give him in a run in that role, despite the departure of Cabaye, and when he was introduced against Tottenham it was on the right wing. Ben Arfa looked disinterested and is believed to have been slammed by his boss inside the dressing room along with his compatriot Sylvain Marveaux; at the same time as Pardew informed the playing staff that they will not be having this fixture-free weekend off entirely.
Newcastle, out of the FA Cup because of a third round defeat to Cardiff in January, do not play again until the visit of Aston Villa a week tomorrow. Frenchman forward Loic Remy will, at least, be available again after suspension.
Newcastle learned yesterday that Remy, 27, will face no further action after he was arrested over rape claims last May, so he will be around for the run-in before his loan from QPR expires at the end of the season.
It is also hoped skipper Fabricio Coloccini and midfielder Cheik Tiote will be fit-again to face Villa, so Pardew should have more experience to pick from to try to guide Newcastle out of the slump they currently find themselves in.
Full-back Massadio Haidara is one player desperate to prove his worth in a Newcastle shirt. Italian Davide Santon was hauled off at half-time against Tottenham in midweek, so his place is far from secure for the next game.
Haidara has not started a Premier League game this season, despite looking hugely impressive before sustaining a knee injury at Wigan almost a year ago.
Now the 21-year-old, signed from Nancy for £2m in January 2013, hopes for a fresh chance to prove his worth to Pardew and Newcastle.
“I’m feeling good,” said Haidara. “I am trying to keep in the manager’s mind for the first team by playing well for the Under-21s and in training. I’m fit now.
“I can play in the first team, but I am waiting for the manager to say that he needs me. I hope to be back in the first team soon. I can’t say whether I will be in the first team or not, that is up to the manager. I’m just waiting for a chance.”
Newcastle have won just one of their last nine games, losing seven of those, but Haidara does not think it is the time to be dwelling on what has been going wrong.
He said: “We have had bad results. We need to think about only the next game. It is not good for the team if you only think about the past. You need to focus on the future.
“The squad can pick up. The manager can find the motivation for the whole squad, all of the players, for us to reach the levels we need to for the next game. We need to stay strong to help each other.”