Will Arsenal make a move for Hatem Ben Arfa in January?

Newcastle United

The talented French winger could be targeted to replace Theo Walcott, who looks increasingly likely to move in January before his contract expiration in the summer.

Even before his move from Lyon to Marseille in 2008, Hatem Ben Arfa had been linked with several clubs in the Premiership, including Arsenal. The North London club has always looked a natural fit for the player, with Wenger’s impressive record of taking on young wingers and maturing their game. However Ben Arfa picked up a reputation for inconsistency and training ground troublemaking, and links to the bigger clubs in Europe became fewer and further between.

Newcastle were eventually the Premiership side to gamble on Ben Arfa, and although a severe injury ruled him out for a fair chunk of his time in the North East, his performances have become consistently good, with flashes of brilliance that have repaid the faith the club placed in him. As with many of Newcastle’s stars, the excellent performances have led to host of top clubs once again being linked with Ben Arfa, with Arsenal reportedly the keenest.

The move would be a good one for Arsenal if they could pull it off. Ben Arfa is still only 25, and a far more complete player now than he was when they were first linked to signing him. Arsenal are on the lookout for a new attacker, with Theo Walcott’s contract expiring this summer, they will be keen to avoid him leaving on a free. This could make a January move likely, and Arsenal will not want to be left short in the second half of the season. Daniel Sturridge has also been linked, but Ben Arfa looks the better fit for the club.

Whether Newcastle would allow him to leave is another matter. Ben Arfa has become a star in their side, and the club have been able to fend off interest in many of their players since their successful campaign last season. If the reports that suggest Demba Ba could move in January are true, it’s hard to see Pardew allowing Ben Arfa to leave as well. Arsenal are also traditionally unlikely to offer an amount of money so large that Newcastle’s hand would be forced.

If Arsenal were to go for Ben Arfa, they would be signing a different kind of attacker to Walcott. Ben Arfa is far more technically adept than the Englishman, though without Walcott’s pace. Arsenal’s attack already looks a little weak this season, as they seek to replace van Persie so if Walcott is to leave in January they will certainly need to replace him.

Ben Arfa would be a clear choice, but whether they can persuade Newcastle to part with him is another matter.

image: © machernucha

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