Belfast Telegraph

Pardew hails 'magnificent' Ben Arfa

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew felt Hatem Ben Arfa was fully deserving of any praise coming his way after the France midfielder helped the Magpies secure a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa.

Ben Arfa was once again key for the Tyneside outfit as their steady improvement this season continued in the Barclays Premier League clash at Villa Park.

He opened the scoring from close range in the 18th minute and then, after Christian Benteke's headed equaliser in the 67th, drilled a 73rd-minute shot which was parried by Brad Guzan, who saw substitute Yoan Gouffran arrive in space to convert the loose ball.

Ben Arfa had netted a spectacular winner in Newcastle's last outing, a 1-0 triumph at home against Fulham, although after that game Pardew was keen to stress the 26-year-old had put in a very mixed performance.

But following the final whistle at Villa, the manager said of Ben Arfa: "He was brilliant.

"I think people will have been thrilled by him today.

"He was magnificent, unplayable really.

"I thought the (positive) reaction (from other people) to his performance last time was slightly over the top, but I don't think it can be this week.

"He really was very, very good."

There has been plenty of talk about doom and gloom around Newcastle after a summer that only yielded one signing in Loic Remy, captured on loan from QPR.

But since they lost their first league game of the season 4-0 against Manchester City, the three other top-flight fixtures for the Magpies this term have seen them draw with West Ham, beat Fulham and then record this victory.

Pardew, whose side finished fifth in the Premier League in 2011-12 but then 16th last term, said: "When you are a manager of a football team and you are saying 'injuries are costing us' or 'we probably didn't have a big enough squad for the Europa League', it all sounds like excuses and you have to back it up.

"We had our best players available today and I think anyone who was here would suggest we look a strong side when we have our best team available.

"We perhaps haven't got the depth we would like. But if we keep them all fit like we did two years ago, we have a chance of having a good season."

Yohan Cabaye, for whom a proposed switch to Arsenal this summer eventually failed to materialise and who reportedly refused to play in the West Ham match, returned to the Newcastle starting line-up for the Villa game.

Regarding the midfielder, Pardew said: "It was nice to see our fans applaud him off, and it goes some way towards repairing that relationship.

"I don't think he has fully repaired it, but over the coming weeks he will because he is a very focused individual and I thought he was terrific today.

"There is no problem. He is a French international and he knows the responsibility he has as a footballer to this football club. His focus today was solid.

"All our fans who clapped him off today I'm sure were impressed, but there is still over 50,000 back at home who want to see what he produced today.

"If he can do that, it can all be washed away and we can move on. Hopefully it will, because he is a very important player for us."

Remy, making his first Newcastle start, was involved in the opening goal, taking advantage of slack Villa play to get a cut-back to Ben Arfa in the danger zone via Papiss Cisse.

Pardew had tried to sign Remy last season, and said of the striker: "We sat up for a long period that winter - me, him and his girlfriend - discussing, and I thought we had done the deal.

"We were desperately disappointed that he went to QPR, but sometimes in life you just have to wait long enough and it comes around. It is lovely to have him here.

"He is a terrific lad, I really like him and he will hopefully reflect well on the team."

While Pardew claimed his side had posed their greatest offensive threat since the departure of Demba Ba to Chelsea in January, Villa boss Paul Lambert - whose team have now lost three league games in a row after winning at Arsenal on the opening day - bemoaned the way his players defended for both of Newcastle's goals.

"We never got going in the first half, and you can't lose goals the way we did and expect to get something," Lambert said.

"We started the second half really well. But in the first half we lost a really poor goal, and I think the second one is even worse.

"We had got back into the game, and I think the momentum was with us.

"But we can't defend that way."


From Belfast Telegraph