Alan Pardew believes Hatem Ben Arfa and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa have responded to the challenge he set them by dropping them at Cardiff.
Pardew has confirmed Yanga-Mbiwa will be back for today’s Liverpool game after Fabricio Coloccini suffered a groin injury while on international duty, which is likely to rule him out for a number of weeks. Ben Arfa may also be thrown back into the fray after impressing Pardew with his reaction to being axed from the team after his poor performance at Everton.
The decision paid off for Pardew, but he insists it was a call he made reluctantly because he “loves” the way Ben Arfa unlocks opposition defenders. He believes taking him out of the team gave the forward a chance to analyse his own performances and is looking forward to seeing Ben Arfa at his “best” the next time he plays.
Pardew said: “It’s always difficult to leave out players you like.
“I love Hatem. I want him to play as well and as consistently as he possibly can.
“Sometimes you do need to say players, ‘Come out, have a look at it, see what you did well and what you didn’t do so well and analyse yourself’. I think he’s done that.
“He’s trained well in the last ten days and taken what we’ve said to him on board. I’d like to think when he goes back in the team next time, whenever that is, he’ll really be at his best. I hope so.” Ben Arfa has been one of Newcastle’s biggest threats this season but being shifted on to either wing has not helped his game. Pardew also feels teams are double-marking him and has asked Ben Arfa to find a way to combat that.
He added: “I think there’s a little bit of that in there, but great players can find a way round that.
“For Hatem, it’s sometimes about the response. That’s sometimes more important than anything else and his response so far has been really good. As a manager, I know that is usually reflected in performances.”
The decision before Cardiff was billed as one of the riskiest of Pardew’s time on Tyneside but he said it is part of the requirement of a Premier League manager.
The United boss said: “Whenever you leave players out it’s something you have to think long and hard about because they’re big decisions and, at big clubs like this, they have a big impact.
“For them as individuals as well. You have to take all of that into account, but at the end of the day we have to make big calls. That’s what the Premier League is about.”
“The response on the training ground is we are in good shape. We were disappointed to lose Colo because I think that’s weakened us a little bit, but hopefully we can overcome it with a really strong team performance.”
It is a similar situation for Yanga-Mbiwa, who was axed after a disappointing performance at Goodison Park.
His situation was hardly helped by the president of Montpellier, who this week said he felt the defender had made a “mistake” joining Newcastle.
Pardew brushed that aside as he backed the defender’s “character” and ability to bounce back.
He said: “If you take a defender out, you have to say why and give them solutions. I’d like to think I’ve done that for him.
“I’m pretty sure he’s going to play on Saturday and we need to get a performance out of him he has put in for this club. I think it’s very difficult for defenders to adjust to the Premier League, much more so than for attackers.
“I’ve always thought that and stand by it. Come out, have a look at it, then come back in and show real character.
“I look at him and he has got character – and I’d like to think he’ll show it on Saturday.”