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Ben Arfa puts Magpies back on track

It is no coincidence that Newcastle United's struggles last season coincided with Hatem Ben Arfa being sidelined for several months by a torn hamstring.

At the end of a trying, if not downright toxic, summer on Tyneside the good news for Alan Pardew is that his most gifted player is fit again and back in match-winning mood.

As Ben Arfa, the afternoon's outstanding, if sometimes most infuriating, individual, curled in a stunning late decider to give Pardew his first, vital, Premier League victory of the new campaign it felt almost like a new beginning.

At a stroke of the France creator's left boot the controversy surrounding Joe Kinnear's appointment as director of football, the ongoing transfer market travails and even Yohan Cabaye's one-man strike were temporarily forgotten.

"Hatem may be slightly dysfunctional at times," said Pardew. "He doesn't always do what we want and he made some bad decisions in terms of selection of pass today but he can win games at any level. I'd been pulling my hair out with him but then he produces a moment of magic. That's Hatem."

All in all it was an encouraging day for Tynesiders as Pardew's impressively fit looking side not only kept a third straight clean sheet but seemed cured of their baffling recent dependence on long, high and often, hopelessly optimistic balls.

Instead, Newcastle zipped it around on the ground, showing off an encouragingly varied passing range. Watched from the bench by Cabaye – who, perhaps fearing he might have overestimated Arsenal's interest, ended his early season strike by accepting a substitute's role – Moussa Sissoko, Sylvain Marveaux and Vurnon Anita kept Scott Parker and friends on their toes.

Admittedly Ben Arfa sometimes attempted to dribble beyond one man too many and promising moves frequently broke down once they reached Papiss Cisse but Newcastle were generally dominant.

"Fulham keep possession cleverly and, with Berbatov drifting around in midfield, take the sting out of games," said Pardew. "But we've got a lot of good things going on at the moment."

Whether the sun continues shining hinges on the composition of his squad at 11pm tomorrow. "We've only had one bid for Cabaye," said Pardew. "But if he goes we have to replace him. We can't afford to replace him before he goes because we're not sure he's going to leave so that bid needs to come in quickly if it's coming in at all. If not it won't happen. Or at least I think it won't happen. You can never tell at this football club."

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