The loss of their little maestro has been the catalyst for a reinvention that might just have kickstarted United’s troubled campaign.
Ben Arfa’s forced absence prompted a tactical rethink from Alan Pardew that has achieved the goal of satisfying supporters who were calling for a return to 4-3-3.
Monday’s line-up wasn’t quite a 4-3-3, but it did involve three players pushed forward into offensive positions.
Demba Ba was given the central role while Papiss Cissé peeled off him on the right and Jonás Gutiérrez appeared to be back in an advanced left-wing role.
With Sylvain Marveaux parachuted in just behind a front two and Vurnon Anita and Cheick Tioté bolstering the midfield, there is a pleasing freshness and fluidity about this formation.
It is also getting the best out of players who have underperformed this year, with Anita, Ba and Gutiérrez all posting better performances over the past couple of matches.
Newcastle looked more robust against Stoke last week, but it was against the 10 men of Wigan where they finally asserted the control that Pardew has been craving.
Source: Newcastle United Mad