Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Ben Arfa Fills Gap Left by Fellow Frenchman's Exit

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Ben Arfa Fills Gap Left by Fellow Frenchman's Exit

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner Sports Writer

ALAN Pardew believes Hatem Ben Arfa's time has arrived as Newcastle United look to make light of the loss of Yohan Cabaye in tomorrow's Tyne-Wear derby.

The Magpies' pursuit of Clement Grenier could go all the way to tonight's 11pm deadline after failing to strike a deal with Lyon yesterday.

But regardless of the outcome, manager Pardew dropped a heavy hint yesterday that Ben Arfa will be handed the responsibility of filling Cabaye's boots at St James' Park tomorrow.

Ben Arfa's start at Norwich City on Tuesday was only his second in the Premier League since his disappointing showing in the last derby, in October. Although it was technically Moussa Sissoko who played in the No.10 role vacated by Cabaye, a fluid three-man line meant the man wearing that number spent as much time down the middle.

"Norwich was an important game for Sammy Ameobi (the third of the players behind Loic Remy) and Hatem in particular," commented Pardew. "They have been training very well in the background to a team that has been doing very well. We haven't won as many games as we would have liked in the last few weeks but we certainly have played well.

"I thought they both did absolutely terrific and I couldn't have asked for more. They have a great chance to start against Sunderland, particularly Hatem, I think his time has arrived now to try and cement his position.

"(Yoan) Gouffran is still struggling for the weekend and therefore he has a great opportunity this weekend.

"Of course you can't take a player out like Cabaye and say it is not going to weaken you. It is, unless you can replace him like for like, but whether we can do that, I don't know."

One of Newcastle's best performers last season, Ben Arfa has lost his way this. He has been a substitute for nine league matches this term, starting 10.

But with Loic Remy's three-match suspension from Carrow Road upheld yesterday afternoon and Cabaye sold to Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday, Ben Arfa's three goals will make him Newcastle's highestscoring player in Saturday's derby if Gouffran misses out. …

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