“When they shout Go! Go! Go! Take him on, take him…you can fly! You go and you try and its a pleasure to play in front of our supporters.”
Hatem Ben Arfa
French attacking dynamo magician Hatem Ben Arfa could be making a sensational return to Tyneside on loan after being made available on loan by Paris St. Germain & the Newcastle fans’ favourite would be welcomed back with open arms as Rafa Benitez aims to regain The Magpies’ position in the top tier of English football.
A disappointing 1-0 loss to Sheffield Wednesday in the absence of banned play-maker Jonjo Shelvey last night saw Newcastle relinquish top spot in The EFL Championship and leave the Spanish maestro manager with questions to answer about his side’s creativity and future pattern of play without his main England midfielder.
Without Shelvey’s vision and direction of play on the pitch, Newcastle were lacking inspiration and were not their usual class above The Championship rabble that has taken them to the top of the League and on a faultless nine-game winning run; instead they looked disjointed, ordinary and were hustled out of the game with the referee continuing the football authorities’ clear attempt to disrupt impending Geordie success.
Shelvey is only banned for four more matches yet Newcastle need an alternative to his superb long-rang passing, guile and creativity and now is the time to sign with the January transfer window open soon.
The answer could lie in the phenomenal football boots of Hatem Ben Arfa.
Now 29 year-old, Ben Arfa first arrived at Newcastle on a season long-loan in August 2010 to play under now Brighton manager Chris Hughton but after a magical debut and the winning goal at Goodison Park versus Everton, he was targeted by Man City’s hatchet man in the very next game, had his leg cruelly broken and would miss the majority of the next year on the long road to rehabilitation.
Recently sacked Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew was Newcastle’s boss by the time he returned to full fitness and despite Pardew being much-maligned by Newcastle fans, he played him on both wings and through the middle in Ben Arfa’s most successful period in top level football with 12 goals in 72 games including some absolute gems against Blackburn and Bolton as well as at The Emirates and winning a point-saving penalty at Old Trafford.
A wizard of the dribble who loves to take players on and a scorer of great goals, Ben Arfa provides that spark of inspiration and excitement every time he touched the ball at St. James’ Park and lit up games single-handedly with assists & goals while stats-wise, his dribbling even surpassed that of Lionel Messi.
Last night’s tight affair with Sheffield Wednesday was a replica of many Premier League games Newcastle have played in recent seasons decided by either a set-piece like Wednesday scored last night or a moment of magic the kind Ben Arfa is renowned for in the Newcastle goals for column like this FA Cup worldie:
Rafa Benitez prizes team-work more than individual brilliance yet HBA would give the black and whites an extra dimension in the final third & urgently-needed attacking threat with Shelvey banned and he is more mature and a better team player since a 17 goals in 34 games season at Nice in his homeland, France. His affection for Newcastle remains undimmed and, indeed, he told Mo Diame – who leaves for Africa Nations Cup duty soon increasing the need for fresh attacking impetus – to sign for The Magpies:
“It’s true, Hatem told me to sign for Newcastle when I asked. He told me what a massive club Newcastle is. He was very happy here. He told me he had a good relationship with the fans – he loved it, he told me straight away to come to Newcastle.
“It would be nice for him to come back! He’s a player who could help the team and imagine him coming back and having happy fans who are behind him again. I think it would be good for him and I know he still loves the club.”
Despite scoring with his very first shot at PSG, he has become frozen out of the starting XI at the Parc de Princes although impressing in cameos like the one English fans would have seen against Arsenal recently in The Champions League at The Emirates when he turned the game on its head and set up the equalizer from a corner, another key skill that Newcastle will lack without Shelvey. And imagine the pair in the same team next season…
What would Newcastle fans and Benitez have given for a virtuoso no. 10 performance like this one at St. James’ Park on Boxing Day, 2013? A dream reunion with Hatem Ben Arfa pipping Liverpool and Fenerbahce to his signature and The Magpies will find out.
Juventus Fans Arrested After Clash with Police
Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final clash between Juventus and Ajax has already been marred by violence and controversy, before the teams even took to the pitch.
According to Ansa, citing a report from De Telegraaf, dozens of fans were reportedly arrested in Amsterdam in the hours leading up to the game.
Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini (h/t Football Italia) took to Facebook live video to state that “around 120” fans had been arrested.
Per the report from De Telegraaf, fans near the Johan Cruyff Arena were “in possession of knives, clubs, pepper spray and flares.” Also, dozens of Ajax supporters were reported to have clashed with riot police in separate incidents outside the stadium and were eventually dispersed with the use of tear gas and water cannons.
The Mirror posted the following images on their Twitter page:
Man City forward Raheem Sterling Looking to Combat Racism on the Pitch
Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, who spoke out last month after being subjected to taunts during England’s game in Montenegro, is looking to take his fight against racism to the pitch, saying he would rather stay on the field than let racism force him to walk off of the pitch during a match.
Sterling’s manager Pep Guardiola, stated that he would support players walking off in protest if it happened again, in a strong statement that racism is simply not acceptable.
“I think everyone are entitled to their own opinions. My mum has taught me to be comfortable in my own skin and I am,” Sterling said, according to the Manchester Evening News.
“I wouldn’t personally agree with [walking off], to win the game would hurt them even more they’re only trying to get you down. If you walk off they win, to score or win would be better.
“Everyone’s different. Everyone has their own opinion, how they deal with things emotionally and you have to support everyone.”
Sterling opened up about the racism he has faced in his life, discussing when he first expereinced racism when he moved from North London up to the north-west back in 2010.
“I don’t think trying to make a difference or making a difference, it’s about speaking what you experience. Some people might shy away from it, if more players speak up that might be better.
“It’s offensive but growing up my mum always told me I’m a wonderful black child and I know this. When I hear it, it’s nothing new. I’m happy with it. I’m confident, I’m black and I’m proud. Some people can’t take it but my mum has always told me to love who I am.
“The first time I experienced racism is when I went up north to Liverpool – in London in schools and on a day-to-day basis you’re surrounded by a diverse community. Only a few occasions growing up in the academy in Liverpool, and then mainly in the last couple of years of being a professional.”
Birmingham City Fan Jailed for 14 Days for Punching Aston Villa Player
27-year old Paul Mitchel, a Birmingham City fan has been jailed for 14 days after he plead guilt to assaulting Aston Villa midfielder Jack Graelish during the derby on Sunday.
Mitchell rushed the pitch and took a swing at Graelish when the player’s back was turned at Birmingham City’s St. Andrew’s stadium during the Championship match on Sunday.
Mitchell admitted to invading the pitch and has been officially banned from attending any football match in the U.K. for up to 10 years, and was also ordered to pay £350 in total fines.
Graelish made a statement in which he described how he was “shocked and scared” by the attack.
“I cannot help but feel how lucky I was in this incident,” he said (h/t ESPN). “It could have been so much worse had the supporter had some sort of weapon.”
“He cannot explain what came over himself yesterday morning,” Mitchell’s lawyer, Vaughn Whistance, said on Monday.
“His initial foolish intention was to go onto the pitch to whip up the crowd. He is certainly remorseful today. He is a man with a partner, they have a 2-year-old together and they’re expecting their second child.”
“This weekend a line has been crossed in terms of fan behaviour,” said a spokesperson for the FA.
“On Sunday we saw two separate incidents, at Birmingham City and Arsenal, of individuals entering the field of play and assaulting players.
“Not only is it an offence to enter the pitch, which could result in a club ban and criminal charges for the individual, but it also puts the safety of the players at risk.
“This is entirely unacceptable and we strongly condemn both incidents.
“We will be working with the clubs, the leagues and the police to discuss what collectively needs to be done to protect players and officials on the pitch.
“In addition, we have written to both Birmingham City and Arsenal to seek their observations to examine the security measures they had in place.”
Birmingham City apologized to Grealish and Aston Villa and banned Mitchell for life.
“Birmingham City Football Club would like to apologise to Jack Grealish and Aston Villa Football Club for an incident in Sunday afternoon’s derby match,” a club statement said.
“We deplore the behaviour of the individual who committed this act and rest assured he will be banned from St. Andrew’s for life. The club will also support any further punishment this individual may face in the eyes of the law.
“The club will be working with the relevant authorities to investigate all the circumstances and we will be reviewing our stadium safety procedures.
“What happened has no place in football or society. Jack is a Birmingham lad and regardless of club allegiance should not have been subjected to this — there are no excuses.
“Again, we apologise to Jack and all at Aston Villa Football Club.”
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