The countdown to Deadline Day is well and truly on, with clubs having until 17:00 BST on Thursday to finalise their summer transfer business.
Newcastle United still have positions to strengthen and loan deals for their promising youth players to finalise before then, with time running out to convince fans Steve Bruce's squad can successfully adapt to life without Rafa Benítez.
Right-back a priority
Competition at full-back has been a perennial problem for Newcastle, something that partly led to Matt Ritchie’s transition to left wing-back last year. Jetro Willems, who arrived on a season-long loan from Eintracht Frankfurt, will hope to make that position his own in the early stages of the season, especially if Ritchie’s hamstring injury persists.
That leaves the right side, with DeAndre Yedlin slowly returning to fitness and Javier Manquillo the only reliable option in that position.
Two players from France’s Ligue 1 have been linked in recent days, according to The Chronicle. Sweden International Emil Krafth from Amiens has been the subject of at least one bid, and although he would be a solid and inexpensive signing, he is unlikely to be a significant upgrade on their current options.
Meanwhile, indications from across the Channel are that Bordeaux have accepted bids from both Newcastle and Watford for 26-year-old Senegalese international full-back Youssouf Sabaly.
The player has just returned from helping his country to the African Cup of Nations final and will reportedly have to choose between the two English clubs.
He would represent a much more exciting addition to the right flank, offering a lot more offensively than Krafth, but it remains to be seen if the Magpies’ recruitment team can fight off the competition from Watford.
Movement in midfield?
Steve Bruce hinted after the St Étienne match that Isaac Hayden could be close to signing a surprise contract extension, saying that he is “up for staying” at the club, which would mean little chance of change in the engine room before Thursday’s deadline.
The midfielder has been very impressive since the turn of the year, despite some discontent behind the scenes, and many predicted he would be allowed to move on this summer as a sign of goodwill.
Therefore, his willingness to sign a new deal to stay on Tyneside despite the departure of Benítez will be a huge lift to the club and its fans coming into the new season.
However, reports have once again surfaced linking the club to Brazilian defensive midfielder Thiago Maia of Lille. Le10sport report that Newcastle have offered better terms than Genoa for his signature after they passed up the chance to recruit him last summer.
If there is any truth to these reports, it may mean that Hayden is on the move after all and that Maia will be his replacement.
Meanwhile, Matty Longstaff will be waiting to see what the future holds in the next few days, as he will either be sent out on loan for first-team experience or kept around the Newcastle squad as a reward for his excellent pre-season performances.
His goal against St Étienne exemplifies his promise, and the prospect of him and his elder brother Sean Longstaff partnering each other in midfield in future fixtures will excite even the most jaded member of the Toon Army.
Indeed, Hayden’s future may yet have a bearing on his situation, as it could be that they have a ready-made replacement in their reserves.
Striker search already over?
Another surprising statement from Bruce after the St Étienne friendly was that the head coach is not expecting to sign any more strikers, telling The Chronicle:
“We’re OK in that department. I’ve got five there.”
Having only signed Joelinton and Allan Saint-Maximin as attacking players so far, many Newcastle fans would disagree with his statement, with neither being proven goalscorers and untested in the Premier League.
Having lost three strikers from last season in Pérez, Rondón and Josélu, and only gaining Dwight Gayle in returning from his loan at West Bromwich Albion, they may come unstuck if injuries affect their season.
Like Rondón last season, Joelinton will be vital to how Newcastle set up this year, holding up the ball and allowing the pace and trickery of Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almirón to flourish.
Without him, they would have to drastically change their system as there is no-one else with his strength and stature to perform the same role, therefore signing a back-up such as Charlie Austin from Southampton would make sense.
This season will also require Almirón and Yoshinori Mutō to up their strike rates, with both looking very lively against St Étienne but failing to find the net.
Gayle may yet be moved on, with many Championship clubs including Leeds United interested in his signature, but Bruce is happy for him to stay and be given another crack at the Premier League, despite missing all of pre-season through injury.
All will be revealed in the last throes of the transfer window, but it is clear that reinforcements are still needed on Tyneside if they are going to compete with the other bottom-half sides, not to mention the newly-promoted clubs Aston Villa and Sheffield United who have both recruited well.