Newcastle attacker Hatem Ben Arfa is a player who has been linked with a move to Liverpool frequently in the past 12 months, Jack Lusby outlines why the Frenchman wouldn’t be suited at Anfield.
New transfer rumours continue to surround Liverpool and reports recently have suggested Liverpool will offer £6 million for Ben Arfa, The Metro write that:
“Ben Arfa was linked with the Reds last summer, but he signaled his intention to sign a new contract with Newcastle, before a row broke out with [Alan] Pardew over his behaviour.”
This ‘row’ has led to the 27-year-old to being outcast at the Tyneside club, being forced to train away from the first-team squad.
Hatem Ben Arfa trained in "different group" to the first team today #nufc
— Lee Ryder (@lee_ryder) May 1, 2014
This only adds fuel to the fire that Ben Arfa is set to the leave the club and, despite Pardew’s current problems at Newcastle, the Frenchman is more likely to move on than his manager.
However, these reports should remain just that; signing Hatem Ben Arfa would be a regressive move by Rodgers as he looks to develop his squad to contend in the Champions League next season.
As a cultured attacking midfielder, Ben Arfa is renowned primarily for his dynamism and ability with the ball; often operating on the flanks for Pardew’s Newcastle, Ben Arfa is tasked with running at full-backs, creating space and forcing errors.
As seen in the table below, courtesy of Squawka, Ben Arfa is one of the Premier League‘s leading figures when it comes to taking on defenders:
To put things into perspective, the Frenchman is essentially on par with another reported Liverpool target, Southampton‘s Adam Lallana, and finds himself a happy medium between the superlative Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez when it comes to take on success with 56 percent.
Elsewhere, another of Ben Arfa’s main strengths is his left foot, and on his day the former Marseille man possesses an unstoppable shot – with several long range strikes gracing the Match of the Day ‘Goal of the Month’ features over the years.
A fine example of Ben Arfa’s main qualities could seen earlier this season, as the midfielder scored a phenomenal goal against Fuham at the start of this term:
However, for all his rousing ability with the ball at his feet, Ben Arfa’s undoing is generally found in the other—defensive—side of the game, where the Frenchman can be described in a word—lazy.
The main criticism of Ben Arfa in the Newcastle team is that his work rate is phenomenally low, and with modern wingers more often than not expected to track their runners often all the way back to the full-back position—in order to cover marauding full-backs such as Newcastle‘s Mathieu Debuchy—this is a glaring omission from Ben Arfa’s playbook.
As per Squawka, the 13-time French international has a tackle success rate of just 23 percent, winning just seven tackles in 27 appearances for Newcastle so far this season.
Elsewhere, there are rumours that the midfielder has returned from a lengthy injury spell overweight, with Don Hutchison of North East publication The Journal levelling these accusations and suggesting this has taken a sharpness from his game.
Style of Play
Overall, Ben Arfa can be described aptly as a luxury player.
With his excellence on the ball and with taking on defenders, on his day Ben Arfa can provide the final flourish to a side struggling to unlock a tricky defence.
However, these qualities often see Ben Arfa relying on the work of others to break up play and start off moves—this is something that was much more effective when Newcastle had Yohan Cabaye acting as their primary playmaker, and his absence following his move to PSG in January has proven the deficiencies in Ben Arfa’s game even further.
Why He Wouldn’t Suit Liverpool
With Rodgers’ system at Liverpool built upon foundations of work rate, tracking runners and pressing the opposition when they are in possession, these are all flaws in Ben Arfa’s game and a clear indication as to how the Frenchman wouldn’t suit a move to Anfield.
The transformation of Philippe Coutinho under Rodgers exemplifies why Ben Arfa wouldn’t fit in this current Liverpool side, the Brazilian has added an edge of tenacity to his game this season and is often one of the side’s most effective tacklers; at 27 years old, this development would probably come at too late a juncture for Ben Arfa.
This isn’t to say that Ben Arfa is a poor player, however, and he would suit a side more tailored to his strengths—such as Arsenal, for example—but Rodgers’ Liverpool side cannot accomodate luxury players who will contribute only in one third of the pitch.
Even at the meagre sum of £6 million, as reporter by the Metro, signing Ben Arfa would be a poor option; spending £25 million on Lallana would be a more sensible option with a more guaranteed outcome, although this is still not necessarily the ideal option.
Would Ben Arfa suit this Liverpool side? Or should Brendan Rodgers be looking elsewhere? Let us know in the comments below.