Newcastle United’s Hatem Ben Arfa desperate to play his way into starting line-up

Hatem Ben Arfa
Hatem Ben Arfa
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HATEM Ben Arfa is desperate to force his way into the starting XI – but the forward could again be on Newcastle United’s bench for Sunday’s visit of Tottenham.

Ben Arfa is back in training after a spell of compassionate leave in Tunisia.

And the 24-year-old Frenchman is pushing hard for his first Premier League start of the season.

However, manager Alan Pardew is understandably wary of changing a winning team, his side having overcome Wolves 2-1 in their last outing to stretch their league and cup unbeaten run to nine games.

Strikers Demba Ba and Leon Best are among the goals, and all of his midfielder have also been instrumental in the club’s unbeaten start to the campaign.

“He’s fine, and he’s back,” said assistant manager John Carver.

“Obviously, he’ll be a bit frustrated because he’s not playing, but it’s healthy competition.

“He understands that, and he knows that if he wants to come into the team, he has to be better than the guy who is in that position.

“Whenever that time is, whether it be Sunday or in two weeks, he must train to his maximum and make sure when the opportunity comes along he steps in there.”

Pardew also has defender Davide Santon fit and available for his Newcastle debut.

The 20-year-old, signed from Inter Milan in August, has had two 90-minute outings since United’s visit to Molineux, when he was an unused substitute.

As with Ben Arfa, Santon – who was sidelined with a knee problem shortly after joining the club – could also have to be patient.

“I don’t think there’s any need to change things if you’re winning,” added Carver.

“There’s competition for places, and certainly at this stage last year that wasn’t here.

“When you haven’t got competition, it can give players a false sense of security. People can’t relax thinking they’re an automatic choice.

“In every position we have at the moment, there’s somebody waiting in the wings. That’s a huge advantage for us.

Santon was signed in the wake of left-back Jose Enrique’s sale to Liverpool.

And former Wigan man Ryan Taylor – who has ably filled in there since Enrique’s departure – has been held up as an example of the potential rewards for those waiting in the wings.

Carver said: “The manager’s used Ryan Taylor as a great example.

“Ryan couldn’t see where his opportunity was going to happen.

“He was playing right-back, left-back and in midfield in pre-season, but he had an opportunity, and has done exceptionally well in that position.

“It just shows you don’t know when that opportunity will come, but when it does, you have to rise to it and make sure you’re ready.”