HATEM Ben Arfa can give Sunderland derby-day problems – after stepping out of the shadows in the wake of Yohan Cabaye’s exit, says Newcastle boss Alan Pardew, writes MILES STARFORTH.
Ben Arfa made his first Premier League start in more than a month Tuesday’s goalless draw at Norwich.
The French forward – who had been laid low by sickness in the build-up to the game – tormented the home defence up to his late withdrawal with cramp.
Ben Arfa was energetic and enterprising going forward, and he also tracked back when the Magpies were not in possession of the ball.
And the 26-year-old now has Sunderland in his sights, with the Tynesiders looking for their first derby win since August 2011.
With Cabaye, previously the Magpies’ main creative force, having departed for Paris Saint-Germain and Loic Remy suspended following his dismissal against Norwich, the weight of attacking responsibility falls on Ben Arfa’s shoulders.
“He was very good,” Pardew said, after the Frenchman’s outing at Carrow Road. “That’s the sort of performance, and level of performance, he needs to give us.
“Hopefully, he’ll have no problems for Saturday, and he’ll cause them problems.”
Ben Arfa missed last week’s warm-weather training in Abu Dhabi, and Pardew feels he will be better for the 75 minutes he played at Norwich.
“He’s been sick this week,” said Pardew. “And he didn’t come to Abu Dhabi. He was sick.
“We haven’t put the extra work into him that he needed. He had cramp at the end.”
Ben Arfa started the Wear-Tyne derby earlier this season, but he didn’t reappear for the second half after failing to make any headway as a withdrawn forward.