DAVIDE Santon believes hard work is the only way Newcastle United can compensate for the loss of their best player.
Hatem Ben Arfa limped out of Thursday’s Europa League draw with Maritimo with an injured hamstring.
The problem is a pull rather than a tear, and manager Alan Pardew is hopeful he can return in “a couple of weeks”. But with Yohan Cabaye to undergo groin surgery, it leaves Newcastle without a natural playmaker for the trips to Southampton and Stoke City.
“He’s really a big player for us,” said Italy full-back Santon, in his second season on Tyneside. “I think we will miss him.
“He’s an amazing player and we need him on the pitch.
“He’s been the best player for us this season and being without him will be difficult for us on Sunday. But we have to win, 100%, because we need this win.”
Pardew said yesterday the Magpies will have to “grind out” results in the absence of the French pair, and Santon takes a similar view. “It’s more important for us to work hard,” he argued.
“We just have to keep playing and try to find a solution to win the game.
“This is the toughest time the club has been through since I’ve been here. Last year was great finishing in fifth place.
“This year has been a little bit more difficult. We’ve had a lot of players injured and suspended, but we can’t just think it’s difficult, we’ve got to be positive and think about getting a win at Southampton.”
The newly-promoted Saints enjoyed the morale boost of beating Queens Park Rangers last week to record their first away win back in the top-flight.
“They didn’t start the season really well but now they’re not a bad team,” said Santon. “They want to win, we want to win, it will be a really big game. We have to try and score and keep a clean sheet. It’s important we don’t allow them to score.”