Yesterday, Gareth Bale weaved his magic once again, his late winner continuing West Ham's slide down the table and pushing Newcastle into a relatively comfortable 13th place. He's been a one-man assassin over the past couple months, prompting hyperbolic analysts to compare him to the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Whatever the merits of those comparisons, it's hard to argue Bale's impact on his own club. He can turn a fairly average individual and team performance (like the one at White Hart Lane against Newcastle two weeks ago) into three points for Spurs with a couple of well-placed strikes. At the end of the year, those additional points add up.
But when seeing Bale's winner against West Ham, particularly Steve McManaman's exhortation for the Hammers defender to force the Welshman onto his weaker right foot, I couldn't help but think of a laser-guided Newcastle goal from this season. No, not Sunday's beauty from Papiss Cissé - the blast by Hatem Ben Arfa against Aston Villa way back in the first week of September. Ben Arfa was a few yards closer in against Villa, but in that case, the defender actually did show him onto his "weak" foot. It turned out that Ben Arfa's right boot was still capable of a thunderbolt.
Obviously, the Premier League campaign is just about over for Newcastle this season. Alan Pardew has set a sentimental 10th-place target for his players, but outside of a little bit more in prize money, there isn't any difference between achieving that goal or holding firm a couple spots lower. But there's one much more tantalizing prize still on offer between now and May, and Ben Arfa is just the sort of player who can deliver it.
As good as Bale has been for Spurs, Ben Arfa can match it. He's got more tricks in his arsenal, less pace than the Tottenham talisman, but the effect can be equally amazing. This season has been immensely frustrating for us as Newcastle fans, and at least part of that frustration has come because of Ben Arfa. Not so much because of his injury and what that's meant in the standings. It's the thought of having a player with world-class talent, and only being able to see that talent in the briefest of glimpses.
There's no denying that Newcastle's scouting and recruitment network has assembled quite a squad. Without any release clauses looming in the background, it feels more permanent and stable than it did last spring. The most exciting thing about adding players like Moussa Sissoko and Yoan Gouffran is that it will finally give Tyneside's shining star a chance to demonstrate why French fans have followed him since he was a teenager, why he still gets magazine covers across the Channel while sitting out an injury.
No doubt we'll have plenty more to say about the Europa League, as Newcastle prepares to head to Moscow in just over a week. There are plenty of talented squads in the final 16, including next week's opponents, Anzhi Makhachkala. But with Ben Arfa at his best, Newcastle can beat any of them...even Bale's Tottenham. We've got one more week to think about the potential attacking options and dream of glory.