Pardew challenges Ben Arfa

French international Hatem Ben Arfa has been challenged by his club boss Alan Pardew to improve his fitness or face plenty of time warming the substitute’s bench, according to ESPN.

The 25-year-old made an impressive start to the season, with two goals in Newcastle’s opening three Premier League games, but injuries have since taken their toll.

Ben Arfa has been absent from the Magpies first team since picking up a hamstring injury in a 2-1 away loss at Fulham on December 10.

He withdrew from last weekend’s victory over Southampton at late notice, and also won’t figure in the Toon Army’s trip to newly crowned League Cup winners Swansea on Saturday.

A frustrated Pardew admitted: “I have to say his conditioning has disappointed me this week, and we will be working hard in the next few days to get him up to speed because he lacks a bit of fitness, for sure.

“I just think it’s something we need to push him on at. His upper body strength is there, but we want to work on his general fitness. I think that needs to improve.”

Ben Arfa’s time on Tyneside has been dogged by persistent injuries. He suffered a broken leg in October 2010 during a loan spell with the club which kept him out of action for 11 months.

Newcastle’s form has improved in recent weeks, with three wins from their last four Premier League games, which has seen them climb to 14th.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Swansea v Newcastle

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