Hatem Ben Arfa has been challenged to add more consistency to his game as Alan Pardew wrestles with the dilemma of dropping Newcastle United’s creator-in-chief.
Ben Arfa’s performance at Everton has prompted some searching questions among the United coaching staff, who are considering bringing Paul Dummett and Mike Williamson into the starting XI for the crucial trip to Cardiff.
Pardew has called for a “solid performance” from his team after candidly admitting that they are no more than mid-table fare on current form.
However, he has taken succour from the second-half display at Everton, which the United manager feels could be the turning point in his Newcastle side’s campaign.
The team need to pick up where they left off in that second half recovery, which was achieved without Ben Arfa after Pardew substituted him at half-time.
Pardew admits that he is looking for improvement from the France forward, but offered him hope that he may have a role to play in South Wales by calling him a “proven performer” for the Magpies.
“I think he’s one of those players that we’re looking at for consistency and to get consistency from him,” Pardew said.
“We’ve got a great player, no doubt about that. Consistency is all I’m looking for from any player. He’s proved he can perform for this club.”
The United chief’s reservations about playing Ben Arfa centre around the number of goals conceded down the wing that the France forward has played on. Detailed video analysis has not aided the forward’s case – although Pardew knows he is the chief creative threat in the team.
As Pardew looks to Ben Arfa to raise his game, he admits that the team have pored over the tapes of the Everton match and tried to take the lessons from it.
“I think it could be, sometimes in a season you have games or periods of games where you can reflect on and I think we can reflect well on that second half and draw strength from that as we go along,” the manager said.
“We don’t want to see what happened in the first-half ever again. In some ways you can use it as a beacon of what to do, and the first half as a beacon of what not to do because the contrast was forward passing, forward movement and a bit of energy in terms of trying to win the game, even though we were 3-0 down.
“If we’d have started like that, maybe the score would have been different.”
Pardew is calling on his team to banish the inconsistency of the start of the season with a performance of genuine quality against Malky Mackay’s Cardiff, who have started life in the Premier League well. They have already defeated Manchester City at home.
“If you cut through where we’re at, we’ve got seven points, which is probably mid-table. Our goal difference isn’t good and we’ve shown some inconsistency in games and that’s where we at,” Pardew said.
“We’re not a bad team, but we’re not a great team, and we need to find out what we are and I think we will settle down and Cardiff is an important game in just the performance, if I’m honest.
“That’s the key element that we put in a really solid performance and if Cardiff, I don’t know, like they did in the last game smash one in during the final minute and win, then I’ll accept that.”
United are once again with Steven Taylor and Shola Ameobi although Jonas Gutirrez was set to travel with the rest of the United squad. Dan Gosling yesterday joined Blackpool on an emergency loan.
He said: “We’ve take a little bit more time with Jonas because he came back last time and broke down so we’ve taken a little bit more time. He’s in good nick and will be involved in the travelling party.
“Shola will not be involved. Thursday was his first day back, so he’s got a chance for going on international duty – but I don’t think I’ll include him this weekend. Steven Taylor looks like he’s going to train the Monday of the Liverpool game.”