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The Magpies finished fifth last term after challenging the top four for the majority of the season but the Frenchman claims they have they have the quality to improve further

Hatem Ben Arfa has insisted that Newcastle United can challenge for the Premier League title this season.

The Magpies pressed for a top-four spot throughout last term but were just edged out by Tottenham and Arsenal, eventually finishing fifth but the Frenchman believes his team-mates have enough quality to improve on that placing.

Ben Arfa told The Evening Chronicle: “All the players have stayed here. I think we have to have confidence as we have very good players.

“Maybe if we feel very good we can finish between fourth and first. Why not? Why can we not say we could be champions? Anything is possible.

“We can challenge for it. We have good players, a good stadium and great supporters. We have to have confidence. I believe we can do what I say.”

Ben Arfa was given an extended break from pre-season training after representing France at Euro 2012, and the winger insisted he was happy to be back on Tyneside after a troubled summer that saw him fall out with Les Bleus coach Laurent Blanc and receive a fine for his actions.

After returning to action with the Magpies against Hartlepool United on Tuesday, Ben Arfa is looking to ramp up his fitness ahead of the new campaign.

He reflected: “It’s nice to be back on the pitch and I am happy I played 45 minutes. I feel very good. I will step things up and hopefully I can be ready quickly.

“I stayed in Europe for one month and even though I was on holiday I played football with my friends.

“Now I feel good but I go step by step. The most important thing was to be on the pitch and feel the sensation again.

“You just want to get back to that feeling, feeling good on the pitch. You want to feel good with the ball and with your team-mates.

“I don’t know. It is up to the manager and the fitness coaches,” he added. “They will make the decision, but I’m ready to be on the pitch or the bench – no problem. I will do what the manager says to me.

“I very happy to stay here. I’m happy to be back at Newcastle again. I love this club and the supporters. I love them and they like me. It is very good for me to see the fans here.

“Everybody wants me here. They told me to ‘come on’ and encouraged me. It is great support for me.”

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