UNDER-FIRE Newcastle United boss Alan Pardew will not cave in to pressure and play Hatem Ben Arfa, despite coming under fire from supporters for not starting the creative midfielder.
Ben Arfa was a second half substitute in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Stoke City, a result which made it five defeats in six for the Magpies.
The midfielder’s name was sung constantly by Newcastle’s travelling support inside the Britannia Stadium before his eventual introduction in the 73rd minute, however, it is understood that after the game a number of senior players voiced their disapproval at the Frenchman’s return in the dressing room.
Certain players were angry that Ben Arfa had been allowed back into the fold so soon after his bust-up with Pardew at the end of last weekend’s heavy home defeat to Manchester United.
The pair exchanged words in the wake of the loss at St James’ Park, but while fans are pushing for Ben Arfa to be given a more prominent role with the Magpies struggling in the final third, Pardew has got reasons for not playing the 27-year-old.
The Newcastle boss has spoken about the Frenchman’s attitude in the past, while he has also hinted at issues in the dressing room involving the former Marseille man.
Large sections of the away end also made their feelings towards the Newcastle manager clear throughout the game with chants of ‘we want Pardew out’ heard at the final whistle.
While he knows starting Ben Arfa would go some way to appeasing those fans calling for him to go, Pardew is not prepared to risk an already fragile dressing room by starting the Frenchman when Swansea City visit St James’ Park on Saturday.
Tempers on-field have flared on a number of occasions this season with Yoan Gouffran having to pull Mike Williamson and Cheik Tiote away from each other during the first half of the embarrassing defeat at Southampton two weeks ago.
Despite their wretched run of form in 2014 – they’ve lost 11 times in all competitions since the turn of the year – the Tynesiders are still on course to achieve their aim of a top-ten finish.
Saturday’s defeat saw the tenth-placed Potters close the gap to three points, but luckily West Ham lie nine points adrift in 11th place, although they have a game in hand against Arsenal tonight.
The entire team, with one or two exceptions, have gravely underperformed since the turn of the year and for the second away game running they were on the receiving end of a torrent of abuse from the travelling Magpies fans.
Even Fabricio Coloccini, who has been a defensive rock throughout his career on Tyneside, has looked out of sorts recently, and he has admitted the side need to show more respect to the Newcastle shirt after a string of woeful displays.
“We are very disappointed because we came into this from three games where we did not play well, and then we didn't play well again,” the defender told nufc.co.uk.
“It may have been a better scoreline but it was not a better performance than Southampton and Manchester United.
“They were lucky with the goal they scored but we lost again and it is not good enough. We have to improve and do that quickly before the end of the season.
“We know we have achieved our objective of finishing in the top ten but we are playing with the Newcastle United shirt on and we have to have respect for that.
“We are trying. We are trying to win every game, of course we are. We have to play with pride for this Club and for the fans.”
With the summer transfer window fast approaching, Newcastle have started compiling a list of alternatives to Remy Cabella as a replacement for Yohan Cabaye.
The Magpies were unsuccessful in their attempts to sign the Montpellier midfielder in January, and while they are expected to go back in with an improved offer they are aware of interest in the player from other European clubs.
Chief scout Graham Carr continues to scour the European markets with Ajax’s Siem de Jong – brother of on loan striker Luuk – and Werder Bremem’s Aaron Hunt both emerging as alternatives to Cabella.