Ben Arfa showcases improved attitude in post-match Nice interview

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Labelled as something of a troublemaker during his time with Newcastle United and Hull, Hatem Ben Arfa may have turned over a new leaf.

Maybe it’s the change of scenery, the differing demands of Ligue1 to the Premier League or the painful memories of a season wasted at Newcastle and Hull but for whatever reason Hatem Ben Arfa looks like a player reborn.

Initially brought to Nice on a free transfer last season, following the termination of his contract with the Magpies, the Frenchman was almost jettisoned by Les Aiglons after FIFA ruled that he could not appear for them that campaign.

But club chairman Jean-Pierre Rivere and manager Claude Puel kept faith in the 28-year-old, who continued to train with the club, and are now reaping the benefits.

In eight appearances to date, Ben Arfa has scored six goals, matching his best ever return for Newcastle in front of goal over a single season.

The Frenchman is also well on course to surpass the career-best scoring campaigns he enjoyed as a youngster with Lyon and later Marseille.

But there’s something noticeably different about the Ben Arfa we are seeing now compared with the one who previously sparked up trouble with both of the aforementioned French football giants and later Newcastle.

On the pitch, he’s back to his best, with solo goals against Caen and, more recently, high-flying St Etienne reminiscent of the kind he once scored against the likes of Blackburn and Bolton while with the Toon.

But for all the fanfare that has greeted Ben Arfa’s return to form, the 28-year-old is suddenly sounding not only level-headed but, more importantly, mature.

Speaking to Canal+ in quotes translated by the Chronicle, the midfielder set the tone when quizzed on whether he would soon be making a return to the France national side:

"I’ve done well at the start of the season but I think the French team is still a long way away. If I manage to keep it up over the long-term then why not? Consistency will make the difference."

More telling still, was the assessment he offered when questioned about his solo effort against St Etienne:

“It’s true that it was a nice goal. But the most important thing is to be effective, it’s not to dribble just for the sake of dribbling.

“You have to dribble with the ball to beat a man and score or to get an assist. That’s what I managed to do this evening.”

Sounding calm, focused and determined to prove his worth to a club that took a significant gamble in signing him when he was unfit and out-of-contract, Ben Arfa is finally doing what Newcastle fans always wished he would do.

Namely: he sounds like a dedicated professional always seeking to improve his game and provide something valuable to the team as a whole.

Perhaps it is, deep down, all with a view to gate-crashing the France squad ahead of Euro 2016, where they will be hosts.

It might even be with a view to landing one last big-money move elsewhere, with plenty of clubs likely to be looking closely at the Frenchman and wondering whether they should have gambled.

But for Newcastle fans, more than any one else, this new Ben Arfa will remain a frustrating one, emerging too late to consistently deliver the kind of displays Magpies fans simply did not see enough of.

Apply this kind of focus and dedication and he could have been one of the Premier League's very best, but at least he still has a chance at becoming one of the very best in Ligue 1.

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