Hatem Ben Arfa scored his seventh league goal in the 4-1 triumph against Rennes and seems to have made a big comeback.
The 28-year-old player has had a decent career so far, playing for big clubs like Olympique Lyonnais, Olympique Marseille and Newcastle United and, at one point, was considered one of the best French footballers.
However, since last year, there was a downfall in his career. Although he had played for three years in Newcastle, Ben Arfa signed with Hull City on a season-long loan.
Due to his disappointing performance, though, he returned to the British team in January only for his contract to be terminated on January 4, 2015 and a day later he signed with Nice.
But, unfortunately for him, he wasn’t eligible to play for the club, because of a rule that a player can only play for two clubs in a single season, having already played for both Newcastle and Hull.
He re-signed with the French team and since his debut with Nice on August 14, 2015 against Monaco, he has been unstoppable.
After the victory against Rennes on Sunday, he admitted that he did not want the game to end: “I did not want to leave (the pitch). I wish it lasted another three hours so my team-mates and I could enjoy ourselves. We stepped up the passes and when we play like that it’s as if we were back at home when we were young.”
But, why does the former Marseille and Lyonnais player play to such high standards? The most important problem that the French had to deal with was his confidence.
Of course, it’s because of him that he is now playing for a mid-table Ligue 1 side like Nice and not in a top European club, as he is a very talented and game-changing player.
But, he couldn’t consistently keep his performance at a high level and as a result, he hasn’t played for a top-level club yet.
On the other hand, it was his managers’ way of thinking that prevented him from boosting his confidence and making decent performances.
More specifically, all three of his former coaches, namely Alan Pardew, Steve Bruce and Didier Deschamps, have in common their belief in discipline, and how no player should tow a different line to any other. But, Ben Arfa is the exact opposite. He needs to have complete freedom and be the central figure as well.
When he played well at Newcastle, he was really great, but it was only when he had a central role on the team’s plan (which happened occasionally). In addition, in Nice, Claude Puel has given him absolute freedom and is now able to do whatever he likes on the pitch.
Under the French coach, he has also been able to improve elements of his game, like his shot accuracy (68%) and scoring ability as he’s already scored seven goals in the 2015/16 season.
His playing style is closely connected with his confidence. If he feels confident, then he can do anything and can score goals of high quality, like his previous effort against Saint Etienne or the one against Rennes on Sunday.
In addition, on Sunday, he was again one of the key factors for his team’s great performance, being the leader and the most powerful attacking threat in Nice’s convincing 4-1 win.
The squad is currently sitting fourth on the table and may become the biggest surprise of this year’s campaign, showing what a player with the ability level of a Champions League side can do to a team.
At the end, Ben Arfa was and is extremely talented, but he needs to be trusted in order to play at his high standards. It may be too late to reach the heights he was expected to, but Ben Arfa is happy again and has come back for good.