Alan Pardew insists Yohan Cabaye’s importance to Newcastle United is akin to Wayne Rooney’s at Old Trafford, while Hatem Ben Arfa’s "sublime" display at Aston Villa was reminiscent of Luis Suarez.
Integrate both into the Magpies’ best starting XI and the Newcastle manager is content.
Cabaye’s future on Tyneside has been in doubt after Arsenal tabled a £10 million bid for the Frenchman, who then refused to play against Manchester City and West Ham. While Ben Arfa is injury-free and in good form, having scored against Fulham and Villa, Pardew criticised the former Marseille star’s decision-making and distribution after the games against the Hammers and the Cottagers.
However, on Saturday Pardew described the latter – who also had a hand in Yoan Gouffran’s winner – as “unplayable”.
As such, United’s attacking play was more impressive than it has been all year, and in that respect Cabaye also played his part.
Yet, although he stopped short of endorsing the France international’s recent two-game intransigence, Pardew – who heralded his midfielder as the “heartbeat and the rhythm of the team” – said Cabaye’s conduct since the transfer window closed has been “perfect.”
Ater the club’s vice-captain was afforded a vehemently-supportive ovation by the travelling United fans on his 88th-minute withdrawal at Villa Park, his manager believes the repair process to his reputation is underway.
Pardew said: “Yohan is just as important to us as Rooney is to Manchester United.
“He’s a player who carries the heartbeat and the rhythm of the team, and it’s the rhythm of the game he can dictate, that wins Premier League games.
“There are not that many players than can do that, that can do it like he can.
“He played a part. There were little moments, but he’ll get better because he isn’t 100% yet. He was tired.
“Listen, I think we all know in the modern world that if someone comes along and offers you substantially more money or whatever to join another organisation, it can turn your head, and it did turn his head.
“I’m not saying he was perfect in what he did.
“But all I would say is that he’s been perfect since the window shut, and I can’t ask for more than that.
“It was nice that the fans gave him a good reception when he went off, he’ll sleep better tonight knowing that he has the backing of the team, the manager and a huge part of the fanbase.”
On Ben Arfa, Pardew added: “There’s no criticism of Hatem today, he was sublime.
“Just holding up the ball, holding off defenders, bursting and little moments, things (Luis) Suarez would have been proud of.
“He was terrific. If he’s fit and well, he’ll make a big difference to any team, and certainly us.”
Asked for an assessment of his armoury, now the transfer window is shut, Pardew added: “Well, we still spent money. Loic Remy doesn’t just turn up.
“He was a significant signing because we wanted him in the winter of last year. We didn’t get him but it’s a player we know very, very well. So we know exactly what he’s about, and it’s easy to integrate him.
“I said after the win against Fulham that I’d like to have had another offensive player just to boost the group and have the depth you want as a manager.
“But I’ve got no problem putting the XI out that we’ve got.
“If we can be as solid and disciplined as we were today, we’re always going to have a chance to win games because you’ve got Hatem, Loic and people like that on the pitch.
“Attacking effectiveness is the part of our game that has been lacking since Christmas, but today we really looked like we’ve got goals in us, and that’s a really nice feeling.”