Pardew: We need more from Ben Arfa
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has challenged Hatem Ben Arfa to force his way into the France team by becoming a regular match-winner.
The 26-year-old has established himself as a fans' favourite at St James' Park with his breath-taking brand of football, which he used to stunning effect when he produced a piece of individual brilliance to secure a last-gasp 1-0 victory over Fulham a fortnight ago.
Pardew was left both lauding the former Marseille winger's mercurial talent and bemoaning his maverick approach to the game afterwards.
However, he is confident he has a potential football genius on his hands and believes if he can find a level of consistency, he can take the Barclays Premier League by storm and make a major impact on the international stage.
Pardew said: "That's what we are searching for with Hatem, a little bit more consistency in terms of him winning games, whether it's an assist or a goal.
"He has fantastic quality. He is a player the fans love and he certainly got everybody out of their seats the last time.
"But we need a little bit more than that, more from him, more of those moments. I think he would be the first to admit that that's the year he needs if he is going to break into the French team."
Ben Arfa first arrived on Tyneside during the summer of 2010 when then manager Chris Hughton signed him on a season-long loan deal.
Despite suffering an horrendous double leg fracture in just his fourth appearance for the club, he completed a permanent transfer in the following January, by which time Pardew was at the helm.
He eventually made his first appearance under the new manager in a Carling Cup tie at Nottingham Forest in September 2011, and played his part in Newcastle's surge into fifth place in the Barclays Premier League table to such an extent that he was included in the France squad for the Euro 2012 finals.
But the Magpies' difficulties last season did the Frenchman, whose involvement was also limited by injury, few favours, and Pardew is expecting much more from him this time around.
He said: "He has an ability that no other player can match in certain situations, and therefore there is sometimes a down-side to that.
"But he has worked hard on that down-side in terms of his tactical play and in terms of his work-rate, and he is becoming a complete player.
"If we can keep working on him and making him better, it will be all the better for us and for France."
Pardew will hope for more of the same from Ben Arfa when his side heads for Aston Villa on Saturday hoping for a repeat of the 2-1 victory there last season.
The 52-year-old went into the Fulham game under intense pressure with the Magpies side having taken just one point from their first two league games and with anger mounting over the club's lack of transfer activity, and he was hugely relieved to emerge with a victory.
His hopes of landing another offensive player during the final few days of the summer window were dashed, but he will head for Villa Park in optimistic mood.
Midfielder Yohan Cabaye, a target for Arsenal, remains on board and may return to the starting line-up having worked hard in training on Tyneside during the break for international matches, while the club's one new arrival, loan signing Loic Remy, may be handed a full debut after impressing in his brief appearance as a substitute against Fulham.
Pardew said: "We got a little cameo of that when Remy came on the pitch the other day.
"Suddenly Papiss [Cisse] started getting opportunities, and that comes from having another striker on the pitch who can threaten the goal of that quality.
"Hopefully, that will take us forward as a team because offensively, we need to improve."