Newcastle entered into the current two-week international break in 11th position in the Premier League, and considering they were promoted last season that can certainly be seen as a satisfactory start to the campaign.
However, while they are just one outside of the top half and five points above the relegation zone, manager Rafa Benitez does have same major concerns with 11 top flight games to come before he can strengthen his squad in January – perhaps significantly if a proposed takeover goes through.
While his side look reasonably comfortable at the back having let in 10 goals so far this term, they have also found the net themselves on the same number of occasions, and that perhaps isn’t a good enough record to ensure they stay out of trouble unless they continue to concede so few goals.
Considering seven of ones they scored came in just three fixtures, it means they have netted just three times in the other eight.
The latest match they failed to score in was the 1-0 home defeat by Bournemouth at St James’ Park last weekend, where Benitez decided to go with a more traditional 4-4-2 formation with Ayoze Perez dropped to the substitutes’ bench and Dwight Gayle partnering Joselu up top.
The former Liverpool and Real Madrid manager probably opted to go with that change as Perez had scored one goal and provided one assist in 10 starts beforehand, while the other regular starters in the frontline – Joselu, Matt Ritchie and Christian Atsu – had found the net just three more times between them.
We are starting to get towards the busy festive period now and Newcastle’s lack of goals will certainly be a concern for Benitez and the supporters – even if their rearguard is looking sturdy.
While Joselu is a good centre-forward option he doesn’t look as though he will ever be a prolific goalscorer, while Gayle doesn’t seem to be suited to the lone role in the Premier League either and ideally needs to be partnered alongside someone else.
The name we failed to mention at all in all of this is Aleksandar Mitrovic, and he may just be the answer to Benitez’s headache – at least over the course of the next couple of months.
The Serbia international arrived at St James’ Park in 2015 full of promise and looking as though he had a big part to play for the Magpies, but his poor temperament has often let him down and meant that he can’t be trusted to start matches.
A prime example was when he was sent off twice in his first season with the Tyneside outfit as they suffered relegation to the Championship, while he received a retrospective three-match ban after being found guilty of elbowing West Ham United’s Manuel Lanzini in his team’s 3-1 win back in August.
Even though the 23-year-old was only on the pitch for 18 minutes – and got himself on the score-sheet – he also couldn’t keep himself out of trouble and therefore you can’t really blame Benitez for being unwilling to use him too often.
Mitrovic has played just 12 minutes in the Premier League since he returned from his suspension, while he didn’t even make the substitutes’ bench for the games against Liverpool, Southampton and Burnley last month.
Considering he also scored in Newcastle’s Carabao Cup defeat against Nottingham Forest, it is clear to see that the Serbian has that knack of finding the net – 44 goals in 90 appearances in all competitions for Anderlecht previously proves that.
He also has a not too shabby record of 10 in 36 for the Magpies in the Premier League, while he showed that he hasn’t lost his confidence on the international stage either by scoring his 11th goal on his 33rd cap for his country as they beat China in a friendly on Friday.
The 6ft 2in striker is decent in the air and often seems to find himself in the right place at the right time, and that is a crucial attribute for a player that would be a more mobile option up top than Joselu.
The fact that he is a fans’ favourite and cult hero among the St James’ Park faithful means they are desperate for him to get an opportunity, and it might be a risk that Benitez should take in the coming weeks in order for the club to boost their goal threat and avoid being sucked into a relegation battle over the course of the next 11 games.