THE majority of Newcastle United’s senior players return to pre-season training this morning, with Alan Pardew ready to offer Hatem Ben Arfa a chance to wipe the slate clean and thrust himself into contention for the opening game of the Premier League season.
Newcastle’s managing director, Lee Charnley, remains willing to listen to offers for Ben Arfa, who became something of an exile as he started just five of the final 29 Premier League games of last term.
Pardew lost faith with Ben Arfa during that period, remonstrating with the Frenchman in the dressing room after April’s defeat to Manchester United and publicly confirming that a number of senior players were extremely frustrated with Ben Arfa’s attitude and perceived lack of application on the training ground.
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Ideally, the Newcastle manager would like to move on the 27-year-old, who is rated at around £10m despite his failure to hold down a place in the first team.
However, despite rumoured interest from both abroad and within the Premier League, the Magpies have not received a single formal approach from a club looking to sign Ben Arfa.
As a result, the attacking midfielder will report for the start of pre-season training this morning with Pardew having accepted that he cannot afford to send him into exile while there is a realistic chance of him still being a Newcastle player come the start of the new campaign.
The arrival of Siem de Jong, who is expected to fill the ‘number ten’ role that Ben Arfa covets, has reduced the likelihood of the Frenchman forcing his way into the starting line-up that will take on Manchester City on the opening weekend of the season.
Nevertheless, Pardew will tell Ben Arfa that if he buckles down in training and impresses during Newcastle’s pre-season matches, his previous failings will not prevent him from being considered for a first-team role.
He should be involved in the squad that travels to Oldham Athletic for the Magpies’ first pre-season fixture a week tomorrow, with de Jong also poised to make his debut against the Latics.
Mathieu Debuchy is not due to have returned to training by then, having been granted an extended break following his World Cup exploits with France, and it looks increasingly like the full-back will not be back on Tyneside at all as he edges closer to a move to Arsenal.
Pictures appeared on Instagram over the weekend which appeared to suggest a transfer had been completed, and while Debuchy denies posting anything on social media, he has admitted that talks with Arsenal over a proposed £12m deal are at an advanced stage.
“Everyone is saying that (the deal to Arsenal is complete), but nothing is done,” said Debuchy. “For now, we are discussing it. Arsenal is a very big club, we will see how it works out.”