Such has been the focus on Newcastle United‘s takeover by Amanda Staveley, it had almost gone unnoticed the Magpies had slipped into the bottom three.
Three wins in the spin in the autumn had Rafael Benítez‘s side as high as fourth at one stage. Any fears of a battle against relegation were quashed.
But then the takeover talk began and now the Magpies find themselves in an unwanted battle against the drop at the half-way stage.
There is still little to no pressure on Benítez, such is his standing with the club’s supporters, but he did not stay at St James’ Park after relegation simply to repeat the experience.
The Spaniard wanted reinforcements signed in the summer – most notably up front and in goal – but was let down once more by Mike Ashley who was reluctant to spend.
Now the need is greater than ever and whoever controls the pursestrings on Tyneside will be expected to dig deep.
In order to get a handle on what Magpies fans are thinking ahead of the transfer window opening on January 1, we canvassed the opinion of Newcastle supporters Olly Hawkins from NUFC Blog, Craig from NUFC Index and James Johnston.
Which areas do Newcastle need to strengthen in January and why?
With Paul Dummett injured, Javier Manquillo and Chancel Mbemba, who aren’t natural left-backs, have been deputising there, our lack of natural players to play in that position has cost us. An ambitious loan move for Luke Shaw has been touted.
It was the first area we expected to strengthen over the summer, yet who are our options in that role today? Diamé and Perez. We lack creativity, goals and flair and that’s everything a good No.10 should give you. We desperately need fresh blood in that area next month.
Last but not least, we need a striker. Dwight Gayle‘s form has picked up in recent weeks, but our options are so limited. Joselu puts a shift in, but you’re asking for trouble when you sign Stoke City‘s third choice striker and expect him to do the business each week.
Name realistic transfer targets you would like Newcastle to sign in January and who should they replace in your starting XI?
James: Watford’s Will Hughes would be a versatile midfield option who has plenty more to show at Premier League level. Could really excel with regular game time, instead of Isaac Hayden, who just doesn’t.
Up front, Daniel Sturridge is a proven goal scorer at Premier League level who when fit is capable of scoring the goals we so desperately lack. Unlike Joselu whose summer transfer is still surely being celebrated at Stoke.
And in midfield, Michael Carrick has been restricted by illness and has seemingly become a forgotten figure at Manchester United. The midfield presence you need to ride through troubled times that Mikel Merino just doesn’t have.
What is your number one fear for the January window?
Craig: That a takeover is not completed in time to issue Benítez with enough funds to strengthen the squad significantly enough to avoid what is looking like a nailed-on relegation battle!
Ashley is getting rid of the club; the last thing he’ll be doing is giving us money to spend on January!
What would your dream January transfer window look like?
Craig: Mike Ashley to leave the club as a Christmas present to Geordies everywhere allowing new owners to arrive in time so spark up a deadline day frenzy.
Benítez knows how to get the best out of his current crop of players, but there’s only so much he can do with a squad that remains largely unchanged from last season’s Championship side.
Two relegations under Ashley’s ownership speaks volumes and with him not willing to invest anywhere near the sums of money required to compete in today’s inflated market, a third relegation looks on the cards with the current playing squad.