Hatem Ben Arfa has had his up and down moments during his return season to the English Premier League after missing most of last season after Nigel De Jong’s horrendous challenge. He scored one fantastic screamer for Newcastle before going down, and he beat that in quality and in importance, scoring the opener in the Magpies’ 2-0 win over Bolton that puts them at level with Tottenham for the fourth and final spot in the Champions League.
A curious team, Newcastle United. No marquee names like on any of the other teams fighting for a spot in the most prestigious competition in Europe, but there’s that something else. Something that both Tottenham and Chelsea, until recently, seemed to lack. Team chemistry, cohesion. Alan Pardew probably doesn’t get enough credit for the work he’s done at the North East this season.
No one expected this, battling for fifth with a chance to even finish fourth. Third is also in sight. Who knew Papiss Cisse would be unstoppable. Demba Ba seemed like the right kind of signing from the first moment, but Cisse’s arrival has really propelled Newcastle to a new level of confidence. Their strong defense has more than one target to send those long balls to. The creativity in midfield has more freedom with everyone concentrating on the two big center forwards.
Newcastle don’t have an easy road ahead of them – A visit to Wigan, Chelsea and the surging Everton (4-0 over Sunderland) and hosting Manchester City. Roberto Mancini’s side are probably in a grand state of clinical depression, but they won’t be easy to beat, even if it is St. James’ Park, where Newcastle have lost only twice this season.