Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Talented Ben Arfa Will Be Handled Delicately; BEN ARFA WILL BE EASED BACK

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Talented Ben Arfa Will Be Handled Delicately; BEN ARFA WILL BE EASED BACK

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner

HAVING won the trust of Hatem Ben Arfa, Newcastle United will not abuse it by rushing the playmaker back into Premier League action before he is ready.

Since a brilliant goal against Everton on his full top-flight debut, great expectations have been placed on the talented, but temperamental, 24-yearold's shoulders.

Tuesday's eye-catching performance at Nottingham Forest - in his first appearance since breaking his leg at Manchester City on October 3 - have done nothing to dampen that enthusiasm.

While admitting he was surprised how sharp Ben Arfa looked in the League Cup win, Pardew will resist the urge to rush him back into proper first-team action, although a place on the substitutes' bench at home to Blackburn Rovers tomorrow cannot be ruled out.

"It is a matter of when he is ready," Pardew said. "He shows flashes of brilliance in training but I want him to do it more often in training before I bring him in.

"It was just nice for us firstly to see him playing in a Newcastle jersey in a competitive game, and secondly to see the level he played at because I don't think we expected him to be as sharp as he was.

"I would say he is one step ahead of where we thought he would be."

In an era of squad depth and "rotation", the League Cup is treated more like reserve-team football once was. Nine Newcastle changes in a match they won 4-3 after extra-time highlighted as much.

Being considered fit for that competition, then, is not the same as being regarded as ready for the rigours of one of world football's most physically-demanding leagues.

Pardew thinks Newcastle are reaping the rewards of putting Ben Arfa at ease with his surroundings. Their handling of his rehabilitation after Nigel de Jong's tackle did United's image much good in his native France, and helped in signing compatriots Yohan Cabaye, Gabriel Obertan, Sylvain Marveaux and Mehdi Abeid. …

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