Hull’s body count is low as Ben Arfa heads towards exit
STEVE BRUCE has admitted Hull City will head into a potentially season-defining festive season without Hatem Ben Arfa after running out of patience with the enigmatic playmaker.
The French international joined the Tigers on loan from Newcastle United shortly before the summer transfer window closed.
He had fallen out with Toon manager Alan Pardew and Bruce hoped that a move to Yorkshire would help reignite the 27-year-old’s flagging career.
However, Ben Arfa, whose loan can be cut short in January, has proved a major disappointment in his nine appearances for City and was hauled off before half-time in his last outing at Manchester United last month.
Bruce insists there has been no major fall-out with Ben Arfa, who is understood to be back in Paris working with a fitness coach in the hope of another move in January amid interest from Germany, Spain, France and Brazil.
The City manager said: “Sometimes transfers work out and sometimes they don’t. It is fair to say with Ben Arfa that I can’t see there being a future.
“It is a team and you’ve got to reform and come into the team. Unfortunately, he wants to do things his way, which is fair enough. So unless he changes, I will treat him like any other player.
“There has been no fall-out, (but) he has been omitted from the squad because when you are up against it you need to show a bit of resilience.
“Unfortunately, Hatem sees it differently. It is a shame because we were excited to get him on deadline day but in three or four months it hasn’t happened.
“He is not AWOL. He could be in Paris, I don’t know. But he is not AWOL.”
Ben Arfa, whose wages at the KC are believed to be around £200,000 per month, missed City’s 2-0 defeat at Chelsea due to being in the French capital.
Goals from Eden Hazard and Diego Costa settled a contest that also saw Tom Huddlestone dismissed for an ugly challenge on Filipe Luis.
With the midfielder having earlier collected his fifth booking of the season, he is now set to miss the home clashes with Swansea City, Leicester City and Everton, plus the Boxing Day trip to Sunderland.
Huddlestone’s absence over the entire festive period is a blow for Bruce, who will also be without Mohamed Diame and Michael Dawson for around a month.
He said: “I will punish Huddlestone, of course I will. I can understand his frustration but there is no need for that.
“Tom, as I have said repeatedly, is the most laid-back individual and it is so unlike him to produce an awful challenge like that.
“He will be disappointed when he sees it but it was an accumulation of things that brought it on. That was pretty evident.
“These things happen when emotions run high in a game of football. His frustration was there to be seen because they felt it was unjust.”
Bruce’s belief is that Huddlestone’s red card on the hour was a result of seeing Gary Cahill escape what should have been his second booking of the afternoon five minutes earlier when the England defender blatantly dived.
Referee Chris Foy, who did caution Willian and Diego Costa for diving, inexplicably failed to punish Cahill to leave Huddlestone and his team-mates fuming.
Bruce said: “The big decision (Cahill) you expect to be given at this level. He (Foy) needed to come and do his job properly, especially when he has already booked two for diving. It was like something out of Swan Lake.”
On his side’s battling display against the Premier League leaders, Bruce added: “I was mighty proud of the way my team played.
“Even with 10 men, we had a right good go at them and for an hour we put on a good show. We played with two up front and there was a threat.
“Had the big decision gone our way (with Cahill), it would have been interesting to play Chelsea with 10 men for 35 minutes.
“We put up a good fight against one of the big boys. It didn’t quite go our way when it might have done if the referee had done his job.”
City’s travelling fans certainly felt their players had put in a good shift, chanting Bruce’s name at the final whistle and applauding the team.
Bruce added: “They were only chanting my name because of the way their team played and rightly so.
“With 10 men, they were still competing and challenging for it. Since I have been at Hull, the supporters have been terrific and I appreciate their support.
“In today’s world, it is not always the case. I still think we will be okay. We just need a bit of luck and to stop picking up injuries like we are doing.
“Diame has got his knee in a brace for a month, Dawson looks like it’ll be at least a month and Huddlestone will be four games. But we will keep plugging away.”