He's not Hatem Ben Arfa... but he is close. - Stu Forster
Hatem Ben Arfa undoubtedly brings a special something to the Newcastle lineup. With hamstring surgery on the cards, it's looking like he won't bring that "something special" for the rest of this season.
"I think he's going to need an operation on his hamstring, and it will probably leave him missing for the rest of the year," said manager Alan Pardew.
-- from bbc.co.uk
In the general scheme of things, I was probably one of the slowest among the Newcastle supporters I know to come around on the "mercurial Frenchman" as I've seen him described in the media many times. In truth, his time with Newcastle has not been helped by several major injuries, including the double broken leg he suffered at the hands of Nigel de Jong "The Leg Breaking Karate Kicking Butcher", an ankle injury suffered at the hands of former Sporting Kansas City midfielder Roger Espinoza in the 2011/12 preseason and his current hamstring complaint which has most recently kept him out for a 12-week stretch prior to the Anzhi away match. If you add in some degree of failed experimentation with him relative to formation and position within last year's personnel grouping by Alan Pardew, it has been hard at times to see beyond the bright flashes of brilliance that you could clearly see in him.
During the second half of last year when Alan Pardew settled in (rightly or wrongly) to the 4-3-3, we began to see the best that we've seen from Ben Arfa. We saw how he could put opposing defenses under pressure with his skill on the ball and how he could single-handedly beat an entire team on the dribble.
Continued growth from Ben Arfa converted me completely this season, and so I was as sad as the next guy when he went down initially with injury.
It has not been any sort of disaster in his absence, however. In the time that he's been out, we have finally seen glimpses of the very best that we can expect from Sylvain Marveaux playing in the position that HBA would have been occupying if he were healthy. It could be my old HBA doubter self shining through, but I kind of feel that Marveaux, while not quite as dangerous on the dribble going at defenders as Hatem, brings a more complete tool kit to the lineup that we've been benefiting from over the last 3 months or so. As such, we will see little effective change on the pitch - most of the effect at this point is primarily in depth.
Hatem Ben Arfa is one of those players around whom the papers love to circle with rumor and innuendo, so brace yourselves for a healthy dose of "HATEM BEN ARFA HAS PLAYED HIS LAST MATCH IN NEWCASTLE UNIFORM!!one1!!11!one!" headlines and articles between now and the end of the season. I'm not convinced that he has done... I wouldn't be surprised if he does move on this summer, but I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't. What I do know is that we have the quality within the squad to cope with this injury. We've shown it already this calendar year.