Ben Arfa shaking off Premier League bad boy tag in France

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The former Newcastle and Hull attacking midfielder left the Premier League under a cloud but has been in great form for Nice this season.

Hatem Ben Arfa has always courted controversy throughout his football career and it was no different during his time with Newcastle United, and later Hull.

As a youngster with Lyon and later Marseille, the France international showed a petulance and lack of regard for authority that would later turn him from Premier League star to perennial top-flight troublemaker.

Whether it was the reported arguments with managers, social media outbursts or no-shows in training, Ben Arfa not only burned his bridges in the north east – he turned them to ash.

Loaned out to Hull City by Newcastle last season, the Frenchman's Tigers tenure amounted to just nine games and no goals before Steve Bruce decided to abruptly end Ben Arfa's stay at the KC Stadium.

Speaking to The Express at the time, the Hull manager made his feeling about Ben Arfa at the time very clear:

"There's been no bust-up and I have to say I have a big respect for his ability but in the game these days that alone is not enough.

"It's bloody hard work in the Premier League week in week out and you have to have a certain work ethic...That's been the frustration with him."

Released by Newcastle, the attacker soon found a new home in Ligue 1 side Nice but when FIFA rules prevented him from appearing for the French club during the 2014/15 campaign many felt they had seen the last of Ben Arfa as a force in the game.

Unable to play competitive football due to the fact he had already been registered with two teams that season, there were rumours that the Frenchman would even consider retiring from the game.

Few then, would have predicted that a player with attitude and fitness problems would be in the kind of form Ben Arfa currently finds himself in.

Leaner, focused and performing wonders on the pitch for Nice, Ben Arfa has already scored twice in three Ligue 1 games this season.

His influence has gone beyond merely goals though, as statistics collated by WhoScored.com demonstrate.

For one thing he's already played 225 minutes of football in three games this term with an average game time of 75 minutes no mean feat for a player who sat out much of the final few months of last season.

As well as managing a steady two shots per game, Ben Arfa has also impressed doing what he did best for Newcastle United: dribbling with the ball at his feet.

In three Ligue 1 games, he has completed around 4.3 dribbles and drawn 1.3 fouls on average per match.

It all points to a player more focused and determined to succeed than he was during his final few months in England.

Now 28, Ben Arfa still has time to fulfill some of the promise he once showed at Lyon but he will need to stay focused and grounded.

Having struggled at big clubs in both France and England in the past, perhaps being the big star in Nice's slightly smaller pond could therefore be the perfect environment for the Frenchman to shine.

Alongside that, there is a sense that the pressure is off at Nice, with club chairman Jean-Pierre Rivere expressing as much on ogcnice.com when the midfielder was first signed:

"It’s a gamble for us and for him. He is not expected [to lead us] as a messiah but as an element that will integrate into our squad."

With a European Championships in his home Gallic nation to come next summer, don't rule out a Les Bleus return for the man who once threatened to shine brighter than them all.

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