Anzhi v Newcastle: Hatem Ben Arfa hopes to end 44-year trophy drought
Anzhi v Newcastle: Hatem Ben Arfa believes Alan Pardew's new-look side are strong enough to end the club's 44-year trophy drought
Hatem Ben Arfa says Newcastle’s French signings have significantly improved Alan Pardew’s squad and can help end the club’s 44-year trophy drought ahead of their Europa League clash last-16 first leg against Anzhi Makhachkala.
Pardew snapped up Mathieu Debuchy, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Yoan Gouffran, Massadio Haidara and Moussa Sissoko from Ligue 1 in the January transfer window.
Newcastle’s Premier League form has been on an upward curve since their splurge at the start of 2013, and Ben Arfa has been particularly impressed by Sissoko.
“The squad is better than it was and I’m very happy now because they are very good players,” said Ben Arfa.
“They will help our team and we are stronger than before. I was in France when the players were signing, I was happy because I know they are good players, not just because they are French. They have made the team stronger.
“Moussa Sissoko – I know him from France because I played with him in the national team. He is a great player and a lot of big clubs wanted him but he came to Newcastle – that is fantastic for us.”
Newcastle are bidding to win their first trophy since Bob Moncur lifted the Fairs Cup in 1969, and Ben Arfa believes Pardew’s new-look side are good enough to win the showpiece in Amsterdam in May.
“I hope we can do good things in the Europa League, I hope we can win it,” he added.
“It is important we climb the Premier League and not fall into the Championship, but this is also important. This is a chance to win a trophy and that is something the whole squad are excited about.
“It is amazing it has been 44 years since Newcastle won anything. It would be great to write my name in history by winning something, for us as a team to become the one who ended the gap.”
Pre-match facts: Anzhi Makhachkala v Newcastle
• Newcastle have made it to the round of 16 despite scoring just eight goals from matchday one onwards – an average of just one a game, and the lowest tally of any of the group stage survivors to have made it this far.
• Samuel Eto’o is the only player to have featured in every minute of Anzhi’s eight games since the start of the group stage – 720 minutes in total.
• Newcastle’s 1-0 win at Metalist Kharkiv in their round of 32 second leg ended a run of five away games without a win in Europe (D3 L2).
• During his brief spell in charge in 2009, Guus Hiddink led Chelsea to a 2-0 Premier League win at Newcastle – the first game of Alan Shearer’s brief spell as manager of his old side.