Hatem Ben Arfa is an enigma, wrapped up in a conundrum - to some Newcastle United fans that is, not to me though. He doesn't fool me.
Ever since he first broke on to the scene as an enigmatic teenage wunderkind, there has been many who followed his career with great interest. He was touted as being one of the most gifted players to come from the prestigious Clairefontaine Academy and needless to say, when he signed for Newcastle United many NUFC fans were deliriously happy. Finally we had a proper flair player to drool over. Someone who can excite the masses, get bums off seats and drag this club up off its arse by its coat-tails into the top half of the table and beyond.
That was then, and this is now. Hatem Ben Arfa's time at Newcastle has been beset by injury problems; his horrific leg break in October 2010, a mere two months into his time at the club, being the worst of them. Add to that Pardew's concerns that he doesn't work hard enough for the team, or that he simply always look out of shape (which is putting it mildly) has ensured that Hatem Ben Arfa has not become the player most Newcastle United fans thought or wanted him to be.
This particular fan does not like Hatem Ben Arfa. I think he is lazy, selfish, arrogant and ineffective. I am unwilling to forgive the flaws in his game simply because once or twice a season he looks like a world beater. David Silva looks like a world beater every single game. Luis Suarez has equalled Robbie Fowler's Liverpool record for most goals in a league season, even after missing the first number of games this season. The likes of Oscar at Chelsea, Coutinho at Liverpool, Ross Barkley at Everton, Adam Lallana at Southampton, all produce much, much more for their teams this season than Hatem Ben Arfa has EVER produced at Newcastle United, yet some NUFC fans worship the ground he walks on.
Do not simply take my word for it. How about we do a simple compare and contrast with one of our own players; Yoan Gouffran - a player who gets very little praise.
Yoan Gouffran has played 42 league games for Newcastle United with nine goals and sixassists.
Hatem Ben Arfa has played 72 league games for Newcastle United with 13 goals and 15 assists.
Gouffran is not a massive offensive threat, yet he has still scored almost as many goals as Ben Arfa has with 30 less games played. Granted, Ben Arfa has provided more assists, but 15 assists in over 70 games equals one assist in nearly every five games - which is shocking for a man whose came is supposedly based upon creating chances. It must also be said that Gouffran is a natural striker who is playing out of position on the wing, while Ben Arfa has always been a winger. Add to this the fact that Gouffran works for the team and not himself, tracks back and covers defensively, you can begin to see why someone would prefer Gouffran's contributions to the team over Ben Arfa's.
Following his assist for Cisse's 94th minute winner against Crystal Palace, there have been news stories cropping up about how Newcastle United need to build a team around Ben Arfa. No thanks. Any team taking their guidance from a man who plays solely for himself, is not a team I will be proud of.
I understand why some people laud Hatem Ben Arfa. The romanticism that comes with such a player is oft hard to resist, especially at a time when we have so few truly talented players. With the sale of Cabaye one could argue that we lost our only truly gifted player, and in his absence more and more people are looking to Ben Arfa to provide that flair and class which we so desperately crave. People remember players like Peter Beardsley, David Ginola, Rob Lee and Laurent Robert - the latter often being a dead ringer for Ben Arfa in terms of work rate - and want to see that kind of quality again. They think the only person who can provide that spark of magic is Ben Arfa, and they could be right.
My point is that I am not going to suffer nine dreadful performances in the hope of one good one. I am not willing to forgive a player who is more hindrance than help more often than not. I am not willing to accept someone with no work rate being selected over someone who gives 100% game in, game out.
I have my worries about next season. Honestly, I think we will be in dire straits fighting a relegation battle. When push comes to shove, will I look towards someone like Gouffran who will chase every last ball, make covering last ditch tackles, and will give every last ounce of energy for the team, or will I look towards someone like Hatem Ben Arfa, someone who might win you a game or two with individual class alone, but will actively contribute to a bad performance if he is not on his game.
I know which one I will choose.