Alan Pardew’s status as the second longest-serving manager in the Premier League may have been put into jeopardy earlier this week after deciding to loan out-of-favor midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa to Hull City.
The skillful Frenchman fell down the pecking order at Newcastle last season after Pardew was left unimpressed with Ben Arfa’s two-way play. On the ball, the 27-year-old is incredibly gifted with brilliant skill and complimentary quickness that can make him a nightmare for opposing teams. Yet, too often Ben Arfa’s confidence would spiral out of control, causing him to loose possession and fail to recover with conviction.
The former was problematic but the latter was a cardinal sin that Pardew couldn’t seem to break Ben Arfa from repeating. So he sat him. After starting eight of ten league matches in the fall, Ben Arfa made only 11 Premier League appearances after January, ten of which came off the bench.
The move didn’t help Pardew – who was fined $150,000 for head-butting Hull midfielder David Meyler during the season – gain popularity among the fans. In fact, relations grew so strained that the 53-year-old couldn’t even stand in his technical area for the final home match at St James’ Park because of the abuse he faced.
This past summer fans grew more upset with Pardew when he decided to omit Ben Arfa from first-team activities. Combine the squad’s anemic attacking performances in their first three matches of this season despite Pardew spending $60 million dollars on new assets and the loan deal sending Ben Arfa to Hull City, and it appears the tide has firmly turned against Pardew. Fans are enraged and the Newcastle board, which has long-supported the manager – most notably be signing him to an eight-year contract extension in September 2012 – is now contemplating whether he’s the right man for the job after all.
Results over the coming weeks will be key if Pardew is to remain on Tyneside. As for Ben Arfa, the loan has left him in a good place. He penned the following open letter to Newcastle fans thanking them for their support:
‘To the Toon Army I want to pass on my thanks to all the fans that supported me during my time at the club and living in a city that will be forever in my heart.
‘Thank you also to everyone at NUFC and to Hull for making this loan happen.
‘I wish Newcastle the best of luck. I hope they have a good season.
‘I can’t wait to launch my career again with Hull and Steve Bruce. I thank him for the trust he has shown in me bringing me to this club.
Heading into his second stint in the Premier League, Burnley boss Sean Dyche said there is a different feeling this time around after a “business-like” season at Turf Moor.
The expectation rises from everyone, the money available to the club for its future – all of the things that it brings.
The mentality of the players has been firm all year. We were questioned heavily around Christmas, but I never blinked.
I knew what we were about, I knew the group we’d got, I knew the mentality and I knew we could go all the way.
Last time we were under the radar, it was a fairytale. This one was organized, it was business-like and it was well-fashioned from all involved, especially the players.
If Burnley was questioned at Christmas, they certainly had an answer. After losing to Hull City on Boxing Day, the Clarets have gone unbeaten in 22 matches to climb to the top of the Championship table.
Burnley’s campaign this season has been eerily similar to their last promotion to the PL after the 2013-14 season. If the Clarets win their final game next weekend, they will finish with an identical record from 2014 of 26-15-5, good for 93 points. Dyche’s next job will be keeping Burnley up, as they have been relegated after each of their previous three seasons in the top flight.
We know how they got here, but an interesting question is which moment will live in your memory when you’re reminded of Leicester’s run?
Game 5 — Dyer win Derby in stoppage
It had been a remarkable early season for Claudio Ranieri‘s troops when the Foxes came back from a 2-0 deficit against Midlands rivals Aston Villa, and substitute Nathan Dyer capped off the 3-2 win in style.
Game 14 — Vardy sets a Premier League record
Ruud van Nistelrooy taking a backseat to Jamie Vardy was unfathomable even a month beforehand, but Vardy’s goal gave him a Premier League record 11-straight matches with a goal (and all in one season). Not bad for the man deemed too old by a 2.Bundesliga team.
Game 25 — Blowout at the Etihad
Certainly many had this date circled as the beginning of a downturn for Leicester, but Riyad Mahrez dazzled while Robert Huth scored a pair of goals in a 3-1 ride past Manchester City on the road. It was on.
Game 27 — Ulloa starts earthquakes
Leicester looked destined to somehow find a draw from a dominant performance when Leonardo Ulloa lifted the Foxes to a late win over Norwich, causing mini earthquakes at the King Power Stadium.
Game 34 — Chaos at King Power
A game easily categorized in short, insane outbursts, or just the name Jon Moss
Vardy sent off for diving ?!? Penalty to West Ham for what?!? Penalty to Leicester for what?!?
LONDON (AP) The English Football Association has charged Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini and Leicester defender Robert Huth with violent conduct after they clashed during a Premier League game at the weekend.
Fellaini reacted to getting his hair pulled by Huth by appearing to strike the defender with his elbow as they jostled at a set-piece during the 1-1 draw between the teams on Sunday.