HATEM Ben Arfa has forced his way to the forefront of Newcastle boss Alan Pardew’s mind – and could start at Southampton tomorrow.
Ben Arfa has came off the bench in the Magpies’ last two Premier League games.
And the Frenchman’s performances have put him in the frame for a start at St Mary’s, with Newcastle in desperate need of a creative spark in the final third of the pitch in the absence of the injured Loic Remy, who could return against Manchester United next weekend.
Manager Pardew could turn to Ben Arfa, who enlivened his team after coming on against Crystal Palace and Everton.
“Hatem’s had an influence,” Pardew enthused. “I’ve been pleased with his application, and the quality he’s brought on to the pitch.
“I’ll be thinking about him, but in terms of whether he’ll start or not, I haven’t made that decision.”
A win would move eighth-placed Newcastle, beaten 3-0 at home by Everton on Tuesday, four points clear of Southampton, in ninth.
However, Pardew admits his side must do better in the final third of the pitch against his former club, having wasted a series of chances in midweek.
“Southampton is a big game for us,” added Pardew, who will be allowed into the stadium, but not the touchline, after serving the first part of his seven-game ban for headbutting Hull City’s David Meyler.
“They’re right below us, and we want to try to get a win.
“I want to make sure we deliver the best we can. We can only be the best we can be. What we showed against Everton the other night was a discipline to our game.
“In two thirds of the pitch we were good, but, in the last third, we must improve. We must improve that against Southampton – the quality in that area.”
Newcastle will be without Tim Krul for the next “two or three” games.
The goalkeeper suffered a knee injury against Everton, and Rob Elliot will deputise.
Defender Davide Santon returns to the squad after recovering from tonsillitis.
Pardew said: “Davide’s in the squad now. He’s fit and well. His tonsillitis has gone. But Sammy (Ameobi) has a knock and is still out.”