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Why did Newcastle play Ben Arfa, not Remy, through the middle?



Alan Pardew’s Newcastle side battled well to earned a point against Liverpool in a 2-2 draw yesterday, despite being reduced to ten men for the majority of the contest.

The St James’ Park side took the lead twice, only to be pegged back, but in the end the home faithful will be relatively satisfied with a point under the circumstances.

However, one tactical decision by Pardew left me, and no doubt countless others, scratching my head weighing up its benefits.

Loic Remy

In Newcastle’s bespoke 4-3-3/4-5-1 system, Hatem Ben Arfa was deployed as the furthest man forward in a striker role, while in-form attacker Loic Remy was used on the left.

Surely, with the individual attributes of both players, a swap would have suited them and the team better?

Remy has started life well in Newcastle, scoring five goals so far this term, and looked lively once more against Brendan Rodgers’ side. However, despite having some influence on the game, it felt that the former Marseille hitman was somewhat wasted being predominantly tied to the touchline.

Ben Arfa is undoubtedly one of Newcastle’s most gifted players and a match-winner. Despite showing some tidy touches against Liverpool, the game passed the Frenchman by, and he looked slightly out of place playing through the middle.

A number of periods of the game typified the flaw in Pardew’s line-up. In the first-half, with Newcastle in the ascendancy, Remy looked to beat his marker and get the ball into the box. He did so on at least two occasions, but Ben Arfa was nowhere to be seen.

These deliveries into the danger area were crying out for a striker to get onto the end of them, and Remy himself would have relished the opportunity to attack some of his own centered balls.

Hatem Ben Arfa

In the second half, with Newcastle in the lead but down to ten men, the home side soaked up a lot of pressure and cleared their lines whenever given a reprieve. However, Ben Arfa was unable to hold the ball up to bring midfielders into the game and as a result Newcastle clearances were largely just giving the ball back to Liverpool.

If Remy had been playing as the lone frontman, his speed and strength would have given the likes of Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure something to worry about and surely would have given the hosts more of a chance of keeping the ball.

Neither instances were the fault of Ben Arfa; he was simply playing out of position. He would have been better deployed in Remy’s left flank position, where he could run at defenders and create.

Newcastle fans are accustomed to old-fashioned powerful number nines, not new-age false nines. Going forward, Pardew needs to use his key attacking players in their most-suited positions if the Tyneside club are to continue their progression up the table.