Fraser Kicks Off: Ben Arfa needs to be handled with care



First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Football/Golf Writer

IN his teenage years, Hatem Ben Arfa was involved in a televised row with Arsenal midfielder Abou Diaby during their time together at the France national football academy at Clairefontaine.

Despite a rapid rise to prominence at Lyon, culminating in him being crowned the young player of the year three years ago, Ben Arfa forced through a move to Marseille after much-publicised dressing room disputes with Karim Benzema and Sebastien Squillaci.

Then last summer, in a similar manner to that which ensured he got his move to Marseille, the 24-year-old failed to turn up for training in his bid to seal a transfer to Newcastle United.

Ben Arfa, it is safe to assume, is someone who knows what he wants and tries to make sure it happens. Alan Pardew, the Newcastle boss, is about to find out all about him.

Pardew expects run-ins; a quick search on Google will have enlightened him to what sort of unpredictable character he has at his disposal.

But believing that such unpredictability also extends to his footballing talent, Pardew is convinced that in Ben Arfa the Newcastle squad have a player capable of creating, scoring and tormenting opponents all in one afternoon.

And he is. What Pardew and Newcastle's fans should be wary of, however, is that Ben Arfa is still new to English football and heads in to his comeback match at Nottingham Forest on the back of almost a year out through injury.

Ben Arfa is young enough to make a full recovery and recapture his best. It could, though, take time and Pardew will not be prepared to play him too often, too soon.

That is unlikely to suit the Parisien, although it will be a wise move - even if Newcastle's impressive unbeaten start to the campaign suddenly hits the buffers.

Ben Arfa only appeared in four matches for Newcastle last season before Nigel De Jong's horrific tackle left him with a double fracture in his leg on October 3. And he had only really looked the part when he netted a sensational winner at Everton two games earlier.

Undoubtedly Newcastle have a player with plenty of promise, possessing an abudance of talent. To expect a string of instant top performances from the £5m man could do more harm than good.

Ben Arfa might be quick to tell Pardew exactly what he thinks if he is not figuring in Newcastle's starting line-up in the coming weeks.

But if the Newcastle boss sticks to his guns, the longer term benefits to Newcastle's attacking options could be far greater than they would be now.

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