Why Hatem Ben Arfa Must Make His Latest Newcastle United Comeback Count

Dan SheridanContributor IMarch 20, 2014

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 19: Hatem Ben Arfa of Newcastle United reacts during the Barclays Premier League game between Newcastle United and Liverpool at St James' Park on October 19, 2013 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.  (Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images)
Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

For a player who’s been at Newcastle United for a little over three-and-half-years, Hatem Ben Arfa has had more comebacks than Rocky Balboa.

His latest setback—a groin injury that sidelined the Frenchman for over a month—has reportedly cleared up, and he's in line to make his return this weekend.

According to Miles Starforth in The Shields Gazette, the 27-year-old could play some part against Crystal Palace on Saturday after returning to full training recently.

Unlike past reappearances, however, there is an air of finality surrounding the enigmatic wide man this time around, and many feel his spell on Tyneside could be coming to and end.

Manager Alan Pardew made Ben Arfa his first signing at St. James’ Park in early 2011, landing the France international from Marseille after an initial loan spell.

But the former Lyon man has spent as much time on the treatment table as he has hitting the headlines, and Magpies’ fans soon acknowledged his ability to excite and infuriate in equal measure.

On his day, Ben Arfa remains one of the most lethal players in the Premier League.

Has Alan Pardew (right) finally run out of patience with Hatem Ben Arfa?
Has Alan Pardew (right) finally run out of patience with Hatem Ben Arfa?SCOTT HEPPELL/Associated Press/Associated Press

His solo goals against Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers during the 2011-12 campaign were breathtaking, with the latter described as a “wonder goal” by Owen Phillips of the BBC.

Likewise, long-range efforts against the likes of Everton and Aston Villa highlighted accuracy and vision, but consistency remains his most significant adversary.

Few players have split opinion among the Toon’s following like Ben Arfa, and for every supporter who sings his name there is another close by bemoaning his shortcomings.

His harshest detractors point to a perceived lack of awareness when it comes to his teammates, as well as an inclination to delay the final ball until the moment is gone.

A reputation for petulance also seems to follow him around, and unfortunately for the Clairefontaine product, Pardew himself is seemingly running out of patience.

Following February’s 4-0 hammering at home to Tottenham Hotspur, reports such as Ian Murtagh’s in the Daily Star insisted Ben Arfa’s Newcastle career was effectively over. 

Another appeared in The Journal, courtesy of Neil Cameron, who suggested the can-do attitude of fellow Frenchmen Yoan Gouffran and Moussa Sissoko had kept him out of the team. 

By the time this summer comes around, Ben Arfa will have just one year remaining on his current contract, and in terms of winning favour with his manager once more, it really is a case of now or never.

United will not want to lose him for nothing, and if he fails to take his final chance in a black-and-white shirt in the remaining nine games this season, his time by the Tyne could be up.

Over to you, Hatem.