Hatem Ben Arfa has been left out of Newcastle United’s squad to face Arsenal tonight, but the club have denied he has been sent home to France.
Ben Arfa’s often strained relationship with manager Alan Pardew – who is thought to want Swansea’s Jonjo Shelvey to become a driving force of his re-shaped midfield next season – has reportedly twice come to the boil after recent matches.
The 27-year-old was said to have missed last week’s defeat to Swansea City with a dead leg, but his omission for tonight’s game is purely tactical.
He is understood to have trained yesterday morning, but not to have travelled with the squad.
An Instagram account called “hatembenarfalevrai” (“Real Hatem Ben Arfa”) featured a photograph of the playmaker alongside a message saying “At home watching the game (between) Liverpool (and) Chelsea. Hope my friend Demba Ba will score! The manager didn’t pick me in the group to go in London for the game against Arsenal but it is not a problem. (I) hope my team will win in (the) Emirates Stadium to make our fans happy.”
Ben Arfa has started just 13 Premier League matches this season, and come off the bench 14 times. He has only started one of the last 10 games – a 4-0 defeat at Southampton – and no wins since Boxing Day.
He has become something of a cause celebre for many of Pardew’s critics. Since January’s departure of Yohan Cabaye he is the one remaining player with genuine flair, but his inconsistency means it has not been brought to bear often enough.
The France international hardly featured during Newcastle’s purple patch at the end of 2013 and, although initially Pardew gave him a more prominent role after Cabaye left, his anonymity in consecutive 3-0 defeats against Sunderland and Chelsea soon changed that.
And three years of trying to make his first signing adhere to the team ethic and lose weight have brought more frustration than success and all the signs are that the manager, who returns to the touchline after his recent ban – has lost patience. Roma look the most likely buyers for him.
Meanwhile, United are confident of clinching a Bosman deal for Sunderland’s Jack Colback – who would become the first player to cross the Wear-Tyne divide in nearly 20 years – but Pardew is also keen to move for Shelvey, who he has known since his Charlton days.
Shelvey scored a stunner at Aston Villa on Saturday and Pardew wants the 21-year-old, who signed for Swansea in the summer of 2013.
The midfielder is believed to be keen on a move to Tyneside too.