Alan Pardew's Newcastle are on the verge of crisis
After the exhilarating performance in defeat against Manchester United on Boxing Day it has become abundantly clear that Alan Pardew must improve Newcastle's defence if they are to avoid being sucked into the relegation battle.
Newcastle are actually two points worse off at this stage in the season than they were during their relegation season and their recent run of form is worrying for fans of the team.
As demonstrated on Boxing Day, scoring goals is not the problem but stopping them flying past Tim Krul definitely is.
Last season the back four played a key role in their rise to fifth in the table. Fabricio Coloccini was outstanding, Mike Williamson and Danny Simpson were solid and Davide Santon showed promise in his first season in English football.
However the main reason for their success was the brilliantly consistent Tim Krul between the sticks. While he has still played well this season, his form has tailed off somewhat. An example of this was Patrice Evra's speculative effort which slipped through the grasp of his outstretched hand.
Coloccini has also been poor and his tendency to follow the ball around the pitch instead of stay in his position has left Newcastle vulnerable at the back. The future of Danny Simpson remains up in the air with his contract expiring in the summer and Mike Williamson looks out of his depth against the very best attackers that the Premier League has to offer. The one bright spark has been the continued improvement of Santon which will surely have the very top clubs circling to secure his services.
Much of the transfer speculation has surrounded the future of Demba Ba, but it is in defence where Pardew really needs to focus if Newcastle are to improve in the second half of the season.
In an ideal world two centre backs would be signed.
Manchester City's Joleon Lescott could be available on a loan deal and Tottenham's Michael Dawson has found himself on the fringes of the team since the appointment of Andre Villas Boas. How much Pardew has to spend is of course dependent on whether Mike Ashley is willing to loosen the purse strings, but a defender must be brought in to ensure Newcastle rise away from the perilous position they currently find themselves in.