ALAN Pardew is adamant he retains every faith in Newcastle United’s mercurial talent Hatem Ben Arfa – as he dismissed suggestions of a fall-out between the St James’ Park management and the France forward.
The inexperienced Sammy Ameobi was preferred to Ben Arfa as an impact substitute as Newcastle tried to break down determined Swansea on Saturday in a move which caused raised eyebrows among the United support.
It extended Ben Arfa’s first-team exile to two games, the 24-year-old having been hauled off at half-time following an insipid 45 minutes against Chelsea.
The forward’s form has been up and down since he returned from the second of two serious injuries in September and, with even Pardew admitting the player could be difficult to manage, questions about his frame of mind are only to be expected.
However, Pardew says it is a problem of form and sharpness rather than personality that is plaguing Ben Arfa.
The United boss said: “I know there have been suggestions on Twitter and other rumours he is not happy here but it is just not true.
“He is fine, he knows he is not at his best yet and the stats in the game he has played I would expect better from him because of what a good player he is.
“It is not about his relationship with the other players, you are looking too deeply into this, he is just a player who needs more time.
“He will find his best form before the end of the season but how quickly that is I don’t know.
“I will use him as I see fit, I did not use him on Saturday because I did not think the situation was right. Simple as that.”
In a message which will soothe fears Ben Arfa is out in the cold, Pardew insists his absence is more about United’s poor form than any specific problem with his high-profile France international, and he insists he still has room for the “exceptional” Ben Arfa – possibly starting tomorrow night with the visit of West Brom.
Pardew added: “He is an individual character in terms of his personality on the pitch.
“But in terms of that we still have situations where we need to be at full tilt to put him in the team and we are not quite there at the moment.
“Of course, it did not help we had defensive injuries because that has affected Hatem as well. To lose your three first-choice centre-halves for the Norwich game is difficult because Hatem is the type of player you need a strong base to bring out the best in him and to protect ourselves.
“Saturday was the first time since Manchester United we looked like a solid team.
“We were a lot better (on) Saturday and the chances of him being involved on Wednesday are a lot higher because of how strong we looked defensively against Swansea.
“We looked like our old selves.” Pardew appears to feel a player like Ben Arfa is a bit of luxury when his team are struggling for defensive shape and few could argue with a manager who has been sharp on strategy and systems all season.
Having come through the defensive problems that plagued them at Norwich, the team may be nigh for him to return. “I don’t think it is a case of accommodating him,” he said.
“We look different when he is in the side and it needs to turn into a positive for us which I think it can do.
“Fingers crossed for Hatem that happens for him and us because if we can get him back to his very best we have an exceptional player.”
Meanwhile, Pardew has dismissed rumours emanating from Merseyside that striker Andy Carroll might be heading back to St James’ Park 12 months after his £35million January move.
In a categoric denial the former Benton Academy graduate might return to his boyhood club, the manager said: “There has been no dialogue at boardroom level or managerial level between us and Liverpool.”