Football - Ben Arfa can help Magpies soar

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew believes French midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa could hold the key to a Magpies resurgence this season.

PA Sport Report

Ben Arfa is in contention to start in his side's Barclays Premier League opener at Manchester City on Monday night after comingthrough a careful pre-season programme unscathed.

Ben Arfa's long series of injury problems began at City in October 2010 when he suffered an horrendous double leg-break in a challenge from Nigel De Jong.

And his starts were severely restricted last season by a nagging hamstring complaint, much to the frustration of Pardew who clearly believes his absence contributed to a trying season at St James' Park. Newcastle finished 16th, having come in fifth in the previous campaign.

Pardew said: "Hatem is a player you need to be very careful with because of the injuries he has had, and we've nursed him through the pre-season and geared him up for the start.

"We're hoping if we can get a full season out of him then it will go hand in hand and our season will be a success."

While Pardew has made no secret of his ongoing search for a striker, he admits his midfield is loaded with options including Moussa Sissoko, who became an increasingly talismanic presence after his January move from Toulouse.

"It's a big season for Moussa," added Pardew. "His initial impact was fantastic and then he got a little injury but this year he's trained very well and we're hoping to have a big season from him.

"I think you can look at him and say he has all the tools to be a fantastic central midfield player. He has tremendous power and physique as well as sound technique.

"I put him in the same bracket as players like (Cheick) Tiote and (Yohan) Cabaye, and say our midfield is an area where we are very strong."

In sharp contrast to their opponents' multi-million pound spending spree, Pardew is set to take an unstrengthened team into battle at the Etihad Stadium, with his only summer acquisition so far, on-loan striker Loic Remy, ruled out through injury.

Despite his evident frustration in the transfer market, Pardew can at least reflect on a summer where, despite long-time speculation, he looks to have held on to his three biggest names - Cabaye, Fabricio Coloccini and PapissCisse.

Cisse's initial refusal to wear the club's new Wonga-branded shirt for religious reasons had looked set to add to Pardew's striker crisis, but having worked through the issue Cisse is set to start for the Magpies on Monday.

"It was very important to get Papiss Cisse wearing our shirt again," said Pardew. "We can go forward now and hopefully we can have a season like the one we had two years ago."

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