It has been almost six years (I actually cannot believe it is that long ago) since Hatem Ben Arfa joined Newcastle on a season long loan from Marseille, for the 2010/11 season. A player who had plenty of good and bad press surrounding him. Good in terms of his ability and bad towards his attitude. That first season was cut dramatically short when he suffered a broken leg in an awful challenge from Nigel de Jong. But nevertheless he still signed for Newcastle permanently.
I was very excited about this as in those couple of games he really did show that he had skill and the willingness to try things by taking players on, something that not that many players seem to do very often. He particularly looked threatening in central roles running at centre backs.
Not forgetting to mention the goals he scored, they were all well fantastic and his goal against Bolton is still one of the best I have ever seen sitting in a stadium! What makes it better, I was sat behind the goal he scored it was hearing some bloke sat behind me shouting “pass” “pass” “pass it” – something that is certainly wrong with the mentally in England and how young players aren’t encouraged to dribble!
He actually nearly scored another pretty much identical to that one not long after that goal. So what actually went wrong for Hatem? Well, it seemed that the management from Pardew was not working out ,
very well at all. He wasn’t getting many minutes on the pitch and then being brought on for the last ten minutes when we were already beaten, how was he meant to do much then?
With a few injuries and lack of games it was clear to see that his fitness had suffered because of this and he looked like he had put on weight. This got him some grief from some fans in the stand, but where was his motivation if the manager was not going to play him anyway? He was a player you had to love and worship, fully get behind and he would pay it all back in a performance.
Apparently Pardew had said that he became unmanageable? But surely a player with that skill a perfect number 10 should have been given the free role off the striker and not stuck out wide. Everyone seemed to be able to see that expect Pardew, guessing his ego was too big to deal with a player with an ego as well.
In September 2014 a totally crazy thing happened, Hatem moved to another Premier League side on loan . . .
Yes really he for some reason went on loan to Hull City! He only made 8 appearances for Hull in a time which did not work out either and Steve Bruce was left confused by the player when in the December he did not even know where he was?!?! Showing that once Hatem had made his mind up he was not going to play nothing could actually be done about it. A massive shame for such a gem of a footballer, surely he’s a player that needs to be told how good he is and loved? In January 2015 Newcastle released Hatem from his contract and he went back to his native of France and signed for Nice.
A big problem though he as not allowed to play for Nice due to only being allowed to play for two clubs in one season and he had already been at Newcastle and Hull. They therefore cancelled the contact but would resign him in the June ready for the 2015/16 season. In that time it appears that Hatem worked very hard to get his fitness up and has had a fantastic season, scoring 17 goals in 32 appearances and really getting himself back in the football world for the right reasons this time.
I certainly hope that he has managed to sort himself out to have a very good few years left of his career and really show that he should be performing on the top stage, the promise he showed as a young player and never really carried through for more than one season. It was very disappointing to see that he was not called up to the France squad for Euro 2016. But I guess the international stage is something that he has neglected with some of his choices in recent years.
The talk over the past few weeks has been that Barcelona want to sign him, although reports today that he would like to stay at Nice, turning down Barca, Liverpool and Lyon? All speculation but when a player says they would like to stay at a club doesn’t that usually mean they leave very soon after saying that?
So as you can see a couple of years later I am still devastated it went wrong with Hatem, it had been a long time of watching Newcastle since I had a player I really loved watching (and haven’t found another one since). It will always leave the “what if” scenario and I certainly don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet, just small glimpses.
Confidence to play and try things is something we try to encourage young players to do, we should be praising a player at professional level doing just that and using skills to beat defenders. Yes, sometimes he is going to lose the ball, but as long as he’s doing these things in the final third trying to create a goalscoring opportunity then I really don’t see the problem in watching an exciting player.
I will continue to follow his career and very interested to see what he is going to do next!