We all knew it would be tough but I’m not sure anyone could have envisaged such a turgid season. We’ve broken all sorts of negative premier league records this season but as we languish in the bottom 3 with only 1 win this season, we can have at least some hope that we can remain in the top flight. As bad as this season has been, we’re yet to be cut adrift; the results and form of clubs like Norwich, Burnley, Watford, Leeds and even Southampton mean we’re still in with a chance – January however, is huge.

We’re in that difficult predicament where we need far more than we can or should bring in. It’s been seen before, not with Newcastle of course but other teams who bring in too many new players in a transfer window and upset the balance of the squad and the team. I appreciate you actually need to have a balance in the first place but even so, we have to be careful with our January recruitment.

Personally, I don’t think Dubravka is good enough for us to really push on but a new goalkeeper is not a priority in terms of securing our premier league status – it would however be nice if he stopped making such critical mistakes, parrying the ball into the path of opposing players and please Martin, just catch the bloody thing! That said, he’s in an almost impossible job, the goalkeeper with the worst defence in the league in front of him. That’s where the priority lies, in defence. Lascelles, Clark, Krafth and Manquillo are simply not good enough. Ritchie and Murphy are not defenders despite what the team sheet sometimes suggests and as much as I want to like Shar, there are too many reckless moments from a player who has always looked like he could one day be the real deal. That leaves the forever injured Dummett, a young Lewis who is still learning and Fernandez who despite being our best CB, can’t be relied upon to start and maintain a solid performance in every league game.

It’s not just our defence that needs attention – the enigmatic Allan Saint-Maximin seems to have been exposed a little since Howe arrived. No longer is our entire game plan centred around “pass it to Maxi” so he has to work a little harder to impact the game and there’s more pressure on him to pass, something in the last few games he seems to have forgotten how to do. We lament Almiron for his lack of end product, his ability and desire to run aimlessly with the ball until he gets dispossessed or makes a wayward pass but Saint-Maximin seems to have developed this “skill” too. Shelvey on the other hand… we’ve seen spells of what he can offer in the past and it’s quickly gone backwards but he has been like another player since Howe’s arrival and long may it continue – you’d forgive Newcastle fans for assuming it won’t however.

Another player who needs a mention is Joelinton, we used to have a ‘striker’ buy the same name but he was useless – the current ball playing midfielder/ number 10 by the same name however is a breath of fresh air and quite frankly, superb. We know he can’t be relied on for goals and of course that’s where Wilson comes in. I like Wilson, I like him a lot – such an intelligent footballer and obviously an eye for goal but he’s one man, he can’t be relied upon to do it all but he so often is. His injury record also isn’t great but this isn’t a criticism, more recognition that he needs help and another striker to rotate and share the burden with. In reality, Wilson is in a very small group of players at Newcastle are good enough to be in a premier league match day squad whilst it remains to be seen if players such as Fraser, Murphy, Almiron, Hayden and the Longstaff’s have any future with us at all.

So, what do we need? Talking to my 9-year-old son, he simply said “we need to get some good players” and it’s difficult to argue with a such a seemingly simple idea – he’s right!For January however we need much in the way of new players but to maintain a balance and not simply buy a new starting 11, our home game against Everton on 8th Feb shouldsee a squad with 3 new defenders with only Lewis retained in the 11, 3 new midfielders to compliment what Shelvey can offer whilst giving us the ability to drop ASM without losing all threat going forward and of course, we need more goals. It’s time for Gayle to go and we desperately need a striker to threaten Wilson’s place or play alongside him. That’s 7 new players, too much some might say but desperate times; I’d like to think Howe has what it takes to integrate so many new players into the squad – here’s hoping!

Gone are the days when we go into a transfer window expecting little and getting even less. We look like we know who we want, are willing to pay the going rate for them and will work to get them through the door early in the window. Years of neglect mean we need first team signings to stand any chance of staying up, it simply won’t happen with the squad we have. It’s a big test for Howe and our new owners but I’m convinced they’ll get it right and we’ll be seeing a very different team being assembled during January.

Rus Trevethick – Twitter: Rus8410