Newcastle United’s poor run of form and slide towards the Premier League relegation zone continued on Saturday as they were beaten 3-1 by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Despite taking the lead when Dwight Gayle took advantage of Marcos Alonso’s poor back-pass to finish past Thibaut Courtois, the Magpies were unable to hold on to their lead and they suffered their fifth defeat in their last six top flight matches.
Rafa Benitez’s men have now taken just one point from the last 18 available and they are just three places and five points above the bottom three with fixtures against Arsenal and Manchester City still to come before 2018.
While the Tyneside outfit made a decent start to the campaign, their recent slump is concerning given other struggling teams like Crystal Palace, Stoke City and Everton are starting to pick up positive results.
One of their biggest issues has come in front of goal, where they have scored just 14 goals in their 15 Premier League matches this season.
They may have scored in the defeats to Chelsea and Manchester United, but the blanks in the losses to Burnley, Watford and Bournemouth previously were particularly disappointing.
With Newcastle’s three main strikers Joselu, Gayle and Aleksandar Mitrovic have netted just five of the Magpies’ 14 top flight goals, with the preferred attacking midfield trio of Ayoze Perez, Matt Ritchie and Christian Atsu with just two between them.
The club’s goalscoring situation is probably summed up by the fact that central defensive duo Jamaal Lascelles and Ciaran Clark have netted four of the 14, and there is no doubt that the attacking players must do more until 2018 and then in the second-half of the season.
While Joselu and Gayle look likely to still be at St James’ Park by the end of the upcoming transfer window, the same can’t be said of the out of favour Mitrovic, who doesn’t look to be fancied at all by Benitez.
The Serbia international’s temperament is certainly a worry for the Spaniard, and he obviously feels that he can’t risk playing the 23-year-old from the start after he picked up a retrospective three-match ban for elbowing West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini in August despite only being on the pitch for 18 minutes.
If Mitrovic does go, Benitez will be looking for a new striker in January and he could certainly do with a proven Premier League goalscorer like Charlie Austin.
While the 28-year-old has now scored three goals in his last two starts for Southampton, his lack of game time in general this term suggests that he still isn’t 100% guaranteed to be at St Mary’s beyond the January transfer window.
The former QPR man has played a total of 315 minutes in the top flight – with 170 of those coming in the win against Everton and the draw against Bournemouth in recent weeks – this season, and he was dropped back to the substitutes’ bench for the trip to Manchester City despite scoring a brace on his first league start of the campaign three days earlier.
With Manolo Gabbiadini and Shane Long as his competition, and with manager Mauricio Pellegrino potentially looking to strengthen his attacking options even further in the New Year, Austin may not be getting the starts and minutes on the pitch that he wants at this stage of his career in 2018.
The centre-forward’s comments after the win against Everton in the Daily Echo suggested that he was starting to think about a move away in January, and it will certainly be interesting to see what happens with him in the next month or so.
Austin told the Daily Echo: “I’ve no doubt I’ll score goals for anybody, whether it be at Southampton or somewhere else; because that’s the way I was thinking.
“Moving forward now we’ll just see what happens. We’ve got a big six weeks now coming up for the football club.”
With 29 goals in 68 Premier League matches for Southampton and Queens Park Rangers it is clear to see what the 28-year-old could bring to the Newcastle frontline, and it certainly wouldn’t take him long to become a fans’ favourite with the St James’ Park faithful given he is a good character and it seems to be popular among his teammates.
Considering Saints signed him for £4m in 2016 he could be available for an affordable fee too, and there is no doubt that if that proves to be the case then Benitez must do everything he can to bring Austin to Tyneside.