ALAN Pardew has refused to be drawn on his decision to leave Hatem Ben Arfa out of his Newcastle United squad – just saying the team was picked ‘on merit’.
Ben Arfa was not involved in last night’s 3-0 defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
The forward revealed he had not travelled on social networking site Instagram on the eve of the game, and his lawyer, Jean-Jaques Bertrand, suggested that he was considering his future at the club.
Ben Arfa has one year left on his contract, and could attempt to invoke FIFA’s Article 17 and buy himself out of his his deal.
More immediately, it remains to be seen whether the 27-year-old – who has struggled for form and fitness this season – returns to the squad for Saturday’s home game against Cardiff City.
Asked about Ben Arfa’s omission, Pardew simply said: “I picked my team on merit – that’s all.”
Pardew was looking for his team to frustrate Arsenal, but their good work in the first 20 minutes was undone when Laurent Koscielny got on the end of a 26th-minute free-kick from Santi Cazorla.
Mesut Ozil added another late in the half, and Olivier Giroud finished Newcastle off after the break with a header.
“They were good,” Pardew told the Gazette. “Ozil and (Aaron) Ramsey asked all sorts of questions that were difficult to answer.
“But we did a really good job for long periods of the game.
“The 20 minutes before half time was the part of the game that disappointed me. We were good in the rest of the game.
“We had to show some character in the second half - we were 2-0 down on the back of five defeats. That’s a big test of your resolve.
“If we’d got a goal, perhaps when Gouff (Yoan Gouffran) went through, we could have put a nervousness into them, but unfortunately it didn’t happen.”