Newcastle United have bounced back from losing their opening two matches on their return to the Premier League with three straight victories – the first time they have achieved that feat since November 2014 – but manager Rafa Benitez may feel that the upturn in form is masking the lack of quality they have up top.
The Magpies failed to score in the defeats to Tottenham Hotspur and fellow newly-promoted side Huddersfield Town, but they have netted six times since to lift themselves up to fourth in the table – behind only Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City.
Only two of those six goals have come from his strikers though, and that may be a worry for the Spanish boss in future weeks if the Tyneside outfit are to maintain their current impressive run of form.
The former Liverpool and Real Madrid chief was eager to bring in a new striker or two during the summer transfer window to compete with Dwight Gayle and Aleksandar Mitrovic, but in the end he had to make do with the solitary addition of Joselu from Stoke City.
With Gayle also linked with a move away from St James’ Park on deadline day, it remains to be seen how in favour he still is, considering he has struggled to find the net in the Premier League on a regular basis for Crystal Palace in the past.
Meanwhile, Mitrovic is currently serving a three-match ban after retrospectively being found guilty of elbowing Irons midfielder Manuel Lanzini last month, and he continues to be a bit of a liability for the Magpies because of his poor disciplinary record.
Considering the trio have scored only 30 Premier League goals between them in their careers ahead of this weekend’s clash against Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium, perhaps the frontline should be a genuine concern.
While Newcastle seem to be getting goals from all over the pitch with defenders Jamaal Lascelles and Ciaran Clark and winger Christian Atsu all chipping in, there will come a time when those dry up and the reliance will be on the strikers to find the net.
Although Joselu and substitute Aleksandar Mitrovic scored against a poor West Ham United side towards the end of last month, the former has struggled since then during the latter’s time on the sidelines.
The Spaniard’s fine header was superbly saved by Lukasz Fabianski in the 1-0 win against Swansea – a match where he had few opportunities – but the same can’t be said for the 2-1 win against his former team at St James’ Park last weekend.
The 27-year-old had clear-cut chance after clear-cut chance to score against his old employers but only one of his five shots found the target – luckily for him his teammates Atsu and Lascelles were more clinical on the day.
Whether it was just because he was trying too hard to prove a point to Mark Hughes or it is simply an indication of why he has failed to reach 10 league goals in a single season in La Liga, the Bundesliga or the Premier League, Joselu certainly has a lot of improving to do to become the goalscorer that Newcastle need this season.
That will be his main challenge, but the performance against Stoke at least shows that he is getting in the right areas to finish any chances he might get.
With upcoming fixtures that look favourable on paper for the Magpies – they face Brighton, Crystal Palace, Burnley, Bournemouth, Watford and West Bromwich Albion in their next 10 Premier League games – it is certainly a period where they need to continue picking up results and they will need Joselu, Gayle and Mitrovic to find their scoring boots to keep Newcastle away from the relegation zone.
But, are the trio good enough to step up and do it?
Well, if the likes of Matt Ritchie and Christian Atsu can keep setting them up they have a chance, but the lack of consistency and finishing from the strikers could see the goals for the team dry up as we head towards the busy festive period.
Don’t be surprised to see Rafa Benitez prioritise bringing a top new striker to St James’ Park in the New Year.