After losing to Watford last Saturday, the Toon are two points adrift of safety with May fast approaching.
Despite losing to Watford, Steve McClaren’s post-match comments, as reported by the BBC, refused to criticise his players: “Apart from the two goals - the performance was terrific. We've got to get it right at both ends. We've had a tough Christmas. The last few results we've been growing and getting better. We lick our wounds and go again.”
After being thrashed 6-1 to Manchester City in October, McClaren said, again via the BBC, “We were unlucky ... There is enough (talent) in there, we just need consistency. Our season begins now.”
And McClaren backed his team again after going down 1-0 to Arsenal earlier this month, as quoted in the Telegraph: “You can't fault the performance; we just have to be more ruthless at both ends … we're bewildered how we have not got anything."
These are not the only examples of the 54-year-old's propensity to steer the focus away from reality. The threat of relegation has been taken lightly by Newcastle for far too long.
Unfortunately for the North-East club, it’s now February and still the basement battle lingers on.
There is no doubt that Newcastle have a talented squad, but the table does not lie. There comes a time when effort can only take you so far and if players are not delivering, they must be dropped, systems must change, and new blood must come in.
Owner Mike Ashley has released funds for the club to spend in the winter window, resulting in the arrival of midfielders Henri Saivet (Bordeaux, £4.5 million) and Jonjo Shelvey (Swansea, £12 million). Next on the hit-list is Spurs winger Andros Townsend, who has agreed a £12 million move to St. James’ Park this week, as reported by Sky Sports.
With the likes of Saivet, Shelvey, Townsend joining up with fellow attackers Georginio Wijnaldum and Moussa Sissoko, the Magpies should have no trouble creating chances. Converting them however will continue to be a problem unless a proven, experienced striker can be signed.
£13 million summer signing Aleksandar Mitrović has scored just four goals in 20 games this year after a prolific spell with Anderlecht.
Still only 21, it was naïve of Newcastle to put all of their trust in the youngster, who despite having showed potential is still learning his trade in one of the world’s toughest leagues. Now with the loss of Papiss Cisse due to injury, there is no real depth up front to make any changes.
It's a problem that's dragged on from last summer and should Newcastle fail to secure a striker, they have only themselves to blame for not acting when they could have.
All is not lost with 45 points still to play for, but with each passing week, time is of the essence on Tyneside against the very real threat of relegation.