ALAN Pardew claimed Hatem Ben Arfa’s best performance for him was down to not working too hard for the team.
Ben Arfa made two and scored one as Newcastle United blew West Bromwich Albion away 3-1 to move level on points with fifth-placed Chelsea in the Premier League.
Pardew’s team is largely built around a ferocious work ethic, but the Frenchman’s flair was the abiding memory of a pulsating performance.
Ben Arfa is sometimes criticised for not contributing enough defensively, but Pardew criticised him for the opposite against Norwich City the previous week.
“Was it his best game for me? For sure,” said Pardew. “He got the balance right between working hard for the team and bringing his flair to the pitch. I think he actually worked too hard against Norwich and took a little bit away from his ability when he’s got the ball.
“He was mesmerising with a couple of his bits of play. He’s a special talent when the ball’s at his feet. A couple of runs were absolutely outstanding.”
Ben Arfa created two goals for Papiss Cisse – taking the Senegalese striker’s tally to five in six games – and scored one himself.
His goal put Newcastle 2-0 up after just 12 minutes, a lead Cisse added to after 34. Shane Long’s second-half goal was a mere consolation.
Having made just 12 starts this season, Ben Arfa is fresh as Newcastle look to chase down Chelsea – ahead only on goal difference – in the race for fifth and a guaranteed Europa League spot. Pardew reiterated his belief the France international could have a part to play at this summer’s European Championships too.
“He’s been out so long you can see a hunger in him,” he commented. “If I was the France national coach (Laurent Blanc) I would consider him because there’s not many players who can do what he can do. It might be a nice wildcard for France to have him in the squad.
“He really has knuckled down and he’s a much more controlled person in his manner and the way he is around the training ground. In the past he had a reputation that he was an enfant terrible or whatever you want to call it, but not here.