Ben Arfa Is Trying To Make Himself A Martyr At Newcastle

Frenchman's odd "meet and greet" will be the final straw for NUFC.

Newcastle United attracts drama. If it isn't chairmen conspiring with an undercover journalist to complain about the sexual promiscuity of the city's female residents, it's players scrapping on the pitch or others being arrested on nights out. The club - for good reason - has often been called the Soap Opera football club. The latest addition to these episodes is the ongoing saga of occasionally brilliant attacking midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa, who has found himself turned from wizard into unwanted, supposedly over-weight wastrel in the space of just a couple of years. Having been a key member of the team that came 5th in the Premier League - before Alan Pardew changed his tactical system and blamed the winger for not being able to play it (when the change wasn't necessary) - Ben Arfa is now on the transfer list and playing with the reserves. As a final insult, Ben Arfa will not be involved in the club's open training day tomorrow, which fans are all invited to, so in a show of belligerence that will win him no fans at the club, Ben Arfa has set up his own open day. That event - a meet and greet - will happen at The Back Page in Newcastle, the treasure trove for football fans (unlike anywhere else in the world) at the heart of the city, on the same day as the open training session from 6pm. Ben Arfa will not be signing anything, and nor will he be there to lead a rebellion against the club: this is merely an exercise in frustration from a supreme talent. A two finger salute to the club to show how much pulling power Ben Arfa has with fans. And that pulling power is already obvious: the national papers have picked up on the "meet and greet" and there's likely to be an unprecedented crowd at the shop. But what exactly is Ben Arfa trying to prove? He won't sign anything fans bring along - that much has already been established - and his English is not particularly good, so quite what fans are to get out of the occasion remains to be seen, beyond the chance to see a fan favourite in the flesh. It looks like Ben Arfa is simply trying to be a thorn in the side of the club, and though he claims he will not be forced out of the club, he is making it impossible for the club not to simply wash their hands of him. He might be supremely talented, and the decision to oust him from the first team rather than play to his strengths - he was still the most successful dribbler in the Premier League in the last two years despite being mostly snubbed - but it looks like he is refusing to cooperate with the club's requests to get his head down and be professional. Footballer appearances aren't unprecedented, but Newcastle as a club tend to be tight on how they're organised, so there's no doubt they're going to be upset at Ben Arfa's impudence, and at how much publicity the event is getting. So maybe don't rule out them stopping any chance of it happening last minute. They shouldn't though, because it will upset the fans and that's the last thing they need on the eve of the season. It's hard to resist reading this situation as Ben Arfa's attempt to fall on his own sword, but make the club look bad in the process. There's no doubt that they already do, because of how they've dealt with his talent, but they could have allowed him to play part of the training session and won something of a publicity battle. As a note of warning: the Back Page is on an awful street at the minute, thanks to extensive building work, and if as many people attend are as anticipated to, it's going to be very busy. But then such is Ben Arfa's pulling power, and fans will flock to The Back Page as a message to the club. Again, you shouldn't take anything along to be signed, because you're likely to get extremely short shrift with the anticipated crowd. What do you think of Ben Arfa's situation? Share your thoughts below in the comments thread.
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