Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Maverick Ben Arfa Is Killing AP Softly

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Maverick Ben Arfa Is Killing AP Softly

Article excerpt

SOMETIMES it feels like Premier League management resembles a Chinese fingertrap - the harder you work to try to put it right, the tighter the vice around your neck becomes.

Alan Pardew is working hard right now: desperately trying to convince anyone in sight that he deserves a chance to rehabilitate both his own and Newcastle United's reputation next season. There is a lot of talk, plenty of theories and a lot of different systems and configurations as he tries to catch a break. Each one only seems to succeed in hammering another dent in the theory that he is the man to take the club forward.

On Monday, despite evidence to the contrary, he insisted United had played well at Arsenal. All the while, Hatem Ben Arfa was killing him softly in a Quayside hotel in an interview that was set up by a PR agency who used to manage David Beckham's brand.

It was a cute move by Ben Arfa, who circumnavigated United's selfimposed media blackout on their squad to return his name to the top of the black-and-white agenda. Try as he might, Pardew cannot lance the Ben Arfa-shaped boil that has grown since Yohan Cabaye left for Paris with the last vestiges of Newcastle's creativity with him.

Say what you will about the Frenchman, but he is acutely aware of our ongoing fascination with him. The Journal alone has published 611 articles that feature him prominently since he joined the club in 2010, which is some ratio for a midfielder who has started just 55 games for Newcastle and had a direct influence on even fewer.

Having worked with him day-in and day-out, Pardew and his players probably wander what all the fuss is about. The last time he started, at Southampton, he was whipped off after 45 minutes and it felt as if Pardew was giving the midfielder the rope with which to hang himself.

But it misses the point, doesn't it? …

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