Alan Pardew: 'Hatem Ben Arfa is still struggling'

Hatem Ben Arfa, Robin Van Persie
© PA Photos
Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew admits that Hatem Ben Arfa is playing below full fitness to aid the club's fight against relegation.

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew has admitted that Hatem Ben Arfa is far from fully fit, but has defended his decision to start the playmaker against West Ham United last weekend.

Ben Arfa shrugged off a persistent hamstring problem to play 65 minutes at Upton Park, showing flashes of quality despite being unable to break the deadlock in Saturday's goalless draw.

With the Magpies locked in a fierce relegation battle, Pardew has insisted that Ben Arfa can make the difference despite still playing through the pain barrier.

He told The Mirror: "Ben Arfa has been struggling. This hamstring has a slight weakness in there and it won't even be strong I don't think for six, seven weeks.

"We got a great level of fitness out of him in terms of that particular problem. He was terrific at West Ham, and he's a match winner. We've been bringing him on in the second half but started him at the weekend and we missed him when we took him off. We missed that little thrust.

"I think for Hatem another week's work will get him closer. Goal scoring is what wins games, we've got to improve that area for next week, including with Hatem."

The 26-year-old's season has been blighted by injury, with the French international restricted to 20 appearances for Newcastle in all competitions.

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew before kick-off in the match against Manchester City on March 30, 2013
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