HATEM Ben Arfa has been told he can’t expect to walk back into Newcastle United’s starting XI – despite the team’s need for attacking inspiration.
Ben Arfa hasn’t featured for more than a month.
The forward had a groin injury, and also missed a week’s training when he was given time off for a “family issue”.
But the 27-year-old returned to full training this week, and he is fit and available for tomorrow’s Premier League home game against Crystal Palace.
United haven’t won, or even scored, without Loic Remy – out with a calf problem – this season.
And Ben Arfa’s energy and enterprise could unlock a stubborn Palace defence which kept a clean sheet at Sunderland last weekend.
However, Ben Arfa could start the fixture on the bench.
“I need weigh it up with everything else,” Newcastle manager Alan Pardew said.
“Hatem needs to deliver. I’m concerned with his assists and his goals. He needs to produce for us.
“The last few games he’s played, there weren’t as many as he should have been. But I think his confidence is better, and I hope that part of it improves.”
Pardew feels Ben Arfa is in a “better place”.
“Hatem missed six days training last week,” said Pardew.
“We’ve put some work into him. We think he’s in a better place.
“I don’t think he’s ready for a 90-minute game in this team at the moment. Obviously, he’ll be involved.”
SportMail understands a number of senior players, while recognising his unique talent with the ball, also have reservations about Ben Arfa’s workrate out of possession.
Meanwhile, Ben Arfa’s return could see teenage striker Adam Armstrong edged off the bench.
The 17-year-old made his senior debut as a substitute late in last weekend’s 1-0 defeat to Fulham a Craven Cottage.
“Armsrtrong showed last week, when teams are packed, he might unlock the door,” said Pardew.
“But we’ve got a senior international back. We have Sylvain Marveaux poised as well.
“Both those players could unlock the door.”