Sunday afternoon saw a pretty insipid draw between Newcastle United and Aston Villa in the Tyneside sunshine at St. James’ Park – a game Sky will have been thankful they didn’t pick up for coverage and one that occasionally threatened to spill out into a brawl, egged on by a frustrated and edgy crowd thanks to the over-zealous physical approach of the claret and blues.
It certainly wasn’t what some Newcastle fans might have expected with Villa propping up the table, and the Magpies squad surprisingly (and thankfully) untouched by the frenzied activities of the last stages of the transfer window, but the Toon Army should be happy with a point after a lack-lustre performance that was punctuated by fleeting good moments and one exceptional one.
Villa had taken the lead midway through the first half, after Newcastle failed to take some good early chances, with Ciaran Clark taking advantage of some atypically lax Newcastle defending to head home without much pressure past Tim Krul, and it took a wave of Hatem Ben Arfa’s wand to get the Geordies back on level pegging.
And while there wasn’t too much to celebrated, other than Ben Arfa’s strong contender for goal of the month, we still learned a fair bit from the game…
1. One Moment of Magic Can Gloss Over Dire Performance
The game was largely disappointing, with poor performances throughout the team, and in truth, Hatem Ben Arfa’s performance may well have gone in the underwhelming pile were it not for that one moment when the Frenchman picked up the ball on the edge of the box, cut inside and hit a beautiful curling effort into the top corner from 25 or so yards.
That goal was the briefest of moments of quality in an otherwise hugely disappointing match, and it was the perfect indication of the value of having someone like Ben Arfa in the team. He can change matches with one wave of his wand-like foot, and it is that sort of impact that makes the Frenchman an invaluable asset to the club, even in comparatively poorer performances. He is the Laurent Robert of this crop of players, but with better dribbling skills and greater commitment to the team cause – in short, a very, very player to have on the pitch.