Pardew hopeful over Ben Arfa

Alan Pardew hopes the impending return of the mercurial Hatem Ben Arfa can spark Newcastle into life.

Last Updated: 09/12/12 at 14:09 Post Comment

Hatem Ben Arfa: Poised to return against Fulham

Hatem Ben Arfa: Poised to return against Fulham

The 25-year-old France international, one of the few Magpies to shine on a regular basis during a difficult start to the campaign, has missed the last four games with a hamstring injury.

His pace and invention proved potent weapons during the early weeks of the season, and when he joined compatriot Yohan Cabaye on the sidelines Newcastle were robbed of much of their spark.

Ben Arfa could be one of several big names to return to the side at Fulham on Monday night, and that would represent a significant boost for Pardew.

"If he is fit enough to play, it would be important because he's a good player - a great player," Pardew said.

"If there was one defender to beat and I had to choose a player too take him on beat him, it would be Hatem. That's his real strength."

Ben Arfa was already on the books at St James' Park when Pardew arrived two years ago having been signed on a season-long loan deal from Marseille by predecessor Chris Hughton.

However, he was at home in France recovering from an horrific double leg fracture suffered in just his fourth appearance at Manchester City on October 3, 2010.

Pardew pushed through a permanent deal during the following January despite the midfielder being months away from a return and having seen him only second-hand, with his performance and winning goal at Everton a particular highlight of the manager's research.

Asked what had prompted his decision, he said: "It was the tape of the Everton game and the goal.

"The little history I did about him in France was enough to convince me that he had massive talent.

"It was just a question of whether I could work with him and get into his head, and I felt I could do that with the experience I'd had of Yossi Benayoun, Carlos Tevez, Javier Mascherano, Teddy Sheringham, and fortunately it seems to have worked out."

Pardew will hope to have not only Ben Arfa but also Davide Santon, Cheick Tiote, Jonas Gutierrez, Gabriel Obertan and Demba Ba back in harness at Craven Cottage as the Magpies attempt to build on last Monday's 3-0 home victory over Wigan.

That ended a run of four successive Barclays Premier League defeats and although it came courtesy, in part at least, of a controversial early dismissal for defender Maynor Figueroa, that, coupled with a positive performance in defeat at Stoke, has helped to restore a measure of confidence.

Pardew said: "Every Premier League game brings its own difficulties, so it doesn't really matter too much who the opposition is.

"It's about ourselves and we produced a level of football against Wigan and Stoke that has buoyed us all on the training ground, and you can see that.

"There's definitely a stronger attitude to attack games."

Fulham, however, has not been a happy hunting ground for Newcastle in recent seasons - they have lost on seven of their 10 Premier League visits and five of the last six with last season's 5-2 drubbing a particularly demoralising experience for Pardew.

Pardew said: "They are a good side and they play very, very well at home, so it's a tough encounter.

"Last year, we probably played our best half of football in the first half. Unfortunately, the second half was probably our worst, so we are hoping we don't put in that Jekyll and Hyde performance that we did last year."


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