Is anybody else devastated by the news that Hatem Ben Arfa may not kick a ball again this season?
Gutted isn’t the word. Admittedly we have had to cope without him for almost three months with his injury keeping him hamstrung, but there have been games recently that have been screaming out for HBA. No more so than the last two games against Stoke and Anji.
His spark of genius, turn of pace, supreme dribbling, threaded passes and goals out of nothing – have left a gaping hole in NUFC’s creative force.
Prior to his injury, albeit in a struggling team Ben Arfa was our stand out player by a country mile. Had it not been for the French maestro, we would surely have had further woes pre the January transfer window. Remember the goal against Villa at home whilst 0-1 down and struggling? Pure HBA Magic.
The disappointment lingers that his talents have not been available to call on alongside our formidable new recruits – especially that of Moussa Sissoko.
In games that have been tight, that momentary piece of brilliance can be the difference in a game of small margins. To win any game, never mind any Cup competition you need that in your armoury.
Without doubt Newcastle’s chances in the Europa League would be greatly enhanced had Hatem been fit and firing.
But the show must go on and we must rely on the players available to achieve what has previously been the unattainable.
Out steps HBA, in steps Marveaux. Like Ben Arfa he floats in and out of games and has gotten a lot of stick for seemingly lacking heart (myself included). At times he seems to be playing the game as though it’s a friendly and is never breaking his neck to get anywhere. But with the ball at his feet he offers something different to the rest of our strong and at times workman-like central midfield stars.
The ability to turn on the after burner and go past players taking people out of the game forces defenders out of position and make mistakes.
Without that we play in straight lines in front of the back lines and don’t really look like scoring many, especially seeing that our set pieces offer nothing and have been nothing short of disastrous this campaign. So we are reliant on scoring with craft from open play, Marveaux can provide that given game time.
But does Pardew see Sylvain as an impact player or a regular first team starter? It seems that for the Premier League he chooses Jonas’ work-rate ahead of the “X” Factor of Marveaux every time.
All Marveaux can do is grab what he can, when he can. My personal preference would to have Marveaux ahead of Gutierrez every day of the week, but I can also see where Pardew comes from when thinking about the physicality of every domestic League game and whether Marveaux will go AWOL in the face of battle.
The proof they say is in the pudding, and Marveaux has won us two vital games in the last minute with quite outstanding vision and skill – to supply two last minute assists to our previously slumbering Senegalese star Papiss Demba Cisse.
Nobody is benefitting more from the presence of Marveaux than our Number 9. Long may it continue, the more attacking partnerships we have the better.
With a really exciting end to the season in prospect I hope that all our big guns remain available. With a top ten finish on the horizon and the possibility of the first trophy in generations, let us hope that in the year of our Lord Two Thousand and Thirteen that Thirteen is lucky omen for Newcastle United.
How about our very own number 13, Mapou to score the winner in Amsterdam?