How Long Until Ben Arfa Loses His Cool?

In what is becoming a bizarre series of events, Unai Emery was once again dropped Hatem Ben Arfa, this time against Stade Malherbe Caen Friday night. Coming just days after being left out of the team to face Arsenal in the UEFA Champions League—without any sort of injury issues—you can bet that this won’t exactly sit well with the former OGC Nice player.

When asked about the situation, Emery bluntly said that he only picks the best players available for each game and given the players lackluster performances since arriving this summer, you have to agree with the manager’s decision. Now, to be fair to the Frenchman, he has been played out of position in the No. 9 role more times than not but he hasn’t been great when played in his preferred position either. Against AS Saint-Etienne, Ben Arfa’s was lethargic for most of the match but did show some flashes of his tremendous ability, confirming Emery’s repeated criticism of the players’s lack of agility. However, you have to question if dropping Ben Arfa from the squad entirely is the best way to handle the situation given his volatile record.

With such a large squad at Emery’s disposal, instances where first team players are left out of the team or relegated to the bench was inevitable, especially as the squad nears full fitness. Having said that, leaving a first team player completely out of the squad who is fit and as talented as Ben Arfa is a questionable at best.

Given the way Emery has handled the situation, you have to wonder if there’s any truth to the previous assertions about the former Sevilla manager playing a pivotal role in bringing Ben Arfa to Paris. Emery is known as a meticulous manager and it’s definitely clear that Ben Arfa’s skill-set doesn’t match his high-energy, action-packed philosophy. You have to question what Emery hopes to achieve by dropping Ben Arfa ahead of PSG’s biggest game of the season thus far. He has said time and again that the Frenchman needs to work harder but this hasn’t been one of the player’s strong suits and the chances that he becomes a hard-running beast at 29-years-old doesn’t look promising at all.

Ben Arfa’s attitudinal issues, which were a major talking point following his transfer, seem to be under control so far but who knows how long it will last. Given the manner in which Emery has handled the situation, I fear the player could cause real issues within the locker room.

Ben Arfa scored 17 goals in his one season at Nice and earned the transfer to his boyhood club. It will be a shame if his time at Paris Saint-Germain is cut short due to off-field issues. He is definitely one of the most talented players in the squad and Emery will need to actively change his approach to work with his more inherent attributes and get the best out of him. I wouldn’t say he is an automatic starter at Paris but if his talent is properly harnessed, he could be very dangerous option off the bench. If Emery can’t solve the Ben Arfa puzzle, it will be best for the club to find a way to move him out as soon as the next transfer window opens—especially with Giovani Lo Celso joining around that time. You certainly don’t want an unhappy veteran player in the locker room when you’re trying to bring more academy and youth players into the team.

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Photograph by VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images

Tags Giovani Lo Celso Hatem Ben Arfa Unai Emery


  1. It’s this simple, HBA lacks footballing intelligence. Don’t get me wrong, he is an exceptionally skilled and talented footballer, but he doesn’t seem to have situational awareness on the pitch or in basic a sense. This is a player who is used to being “the man” on the teams in which he plays and this is not the case at PSG. He needs to learn to become a vital cog in the machine that is PSG; that propels the whole team forward. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen him run into a crowd at full pace, get dispossessed and then fall down, when a simple, cleverly placed pass would have been not only sufficient but devastating to the opposition. Until he learns to play within the team and Blanc’s system then he has no place on the squad.

    Another thing that HBA’s exclusion from the squad has revealed is that JKA is a legitimate second option as a #9. In little more than 20 minutes on the pitch, the youth academy product recorded a goal and an assist. Much more efficient and effective than the former Nice man. IMO if Hatem doesn’t improve quickly he will be out the door next summer, if not sooner, and I would have absolutely no problem with that.

    A bright spot in this thing is that Ever Banega was also often excluded from the squad and it took him about six months to become a squad regular at Sevilla, during Emery’s tenure there. Hopefully Ben Arfa has the same work ethic, patience and resilience as the Argentine. Fingers crossed.

    1. Nicely said. Like you said this is a player used to being the go-to guy on his team (and functions best being that as the only manager (Claude Puel) that managed to figure him out said), which is why I wrote at the time of his signing that it was a major gamble. IMO, PSG didn’t think his signing through and I believe he was a signing done on the spur of the moment by NAK.

      But dropping him won’t solve his problem unless Emery is totally done with him, which means it’s best to sell as early as January. HBA has always reacted badly to this kinds of things and chances are his situation gets a lot worse. I’m quite happy it gives Augustin a chance, all I’m saying is dropping him isn’t the smartest way to go about helping Ben Arfa improve if that’s what Emery has in mind, especially not at 29.

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