6. Treatment of Ben Arfa
Hatem Ben Arfa is one of the most gifted footballers in the world, yet barely gets played by Pardew. He seems to unanimously prefer commitment, grafting and work rate over talent, ability and a match-winning gift. Paradoxically, he benches Ben Arfa but expects him to single-handedly win the match when brought on. When it doesn’t work, he gets blamed – rather than the complete lack of movement often given by teammates. Pardew doesn’t think Ben Arfa tracks back, yet many world-class players don’t track back. They don’t need to because they’re lucky enough to have world-class (or semi-decent) managers that realise there’s 10 other players to do this. Wenger, Rodgers and Martinez would never treat Ben Arfa like this; they’d know exactly how to use him and make him an essential part of their armoury.
Counter-argument: Ben Arfa is a show pony who often gives the ball away in dangerous positions.
This is a myth backed up by stats. Furthermore, you can visibly see teams retreat when Ben Arfa is introduced, as he instils a fear factor. As a child, I didn’t grow up idolising defensive wingers and buy replica shirts because of their effort – my imagination was captured by majestic players, the ones who controlled the fate of matches with their feet. Ben Arfa doesn’t just score and assist goals, he creates chances out of nowhere with his scintillating technique and vision. To be scapegoated by the man who regularly preferred Hayden Mullins to Javier Mascherano at West Ham must be sickening. His Newcastle teammates prefer to give him the ball and just watch him create magic, rather than move around him. Put him around quality players and tactics and watch him fulfil his potential.