After a difficult season which saw Newcastle United fight off the menace of relegation from the Premier League, manager Alan Pardew has a new set of issues to address this summer.
While a satisfying run to the Europa League quarter-finals alleviated their domestic troubles at intervals, the Magpies’ brush with the drop was too close for comfort.
Safety was assured as late as the penultimate match of the campaign, where victory at Queens Park Rangers—only the second away win of their entire league programme—secured survival.
So as Pardew trawls through the remains of the last nine months and searches for answers, we take a look at some vital adjustments that could turn the club’s fortunes around.
Keeping their captain
January’s saga concerning Newcastle skipper Fabricio Coloccini was the last thing the club needed, with the Argentine seemingly determined to head back to his home country.
While his wishes were not granted, the international’s absence during the latter stages of the campaign via a troublesome back injury underlined his importance to the side.
A calming influence on those around him, Coloccini displays astute leadership, and such a vital component would be difficult to replace even at this early stage of the close season.
But if the uncertainty surrounding his future could be eradicated and Alan Pardew was able to head into next term with his skipper fully focused, it would prompt a huge sigh of relief.
Bolstering the strike force
And while the Senegal striker finished the campaign with a respectable 13 in all competitions, the need for reinforcements was plainly evident as the fixtures mounted up.
The Magpies have already been linked with a whole host of forwards since the campaign ended, with Martin Hardy at The Independent reporting an interest in Andy Carroll, The Telegraph's John Percy linking the club with Darren Bent and the Daily Star writing that Wilfried Bony is a target for the St. James’ Park club.
And with Shola Ameobi’s future uncertain according to Lee Ryder at the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, strengthening their options in attack is one of the club’s main priorities.
A change of luck on the injury front
Not for the first time, Newcastle suffered horrendously in the injury department last term, with several key players missing for long spells throughout the entire campaign.
Alan Pardew was only able to call upon his first choice starting lineup on a handful of occasions, and the club took the unwanted title of having the most injuries in the Premier League according Lee Ryder at the Newcastle Evening Chronicle).
The unavailability of players such as Tim Krul, Hatem Ben Arfa, Davide Santon and Fabricio Coloccini had a huge bearing on the Magpies’ form and Pardew’s selection process.
And while accounting for injuries is a largely unpredictable task, everyone connected with the club will be hoping for better luck in that department once the new season is underway.
Returning to form
But this time around, too many of the club’s top players simply failed to replicate the form shown during the previous campaign and they almost paid the ultimate price.
The arrival of no less than five French players in January gave the team a much-needed lift, but with little time to settle in to their new surroundings, that initial impact soon wore off.
Without the additional fixtures brought about by European competition, and following a full preseason together, the onus on the squad’s big names will be to make amends for last season.
A good cup run
Morale in the stands was in short supply at St. James’ Park last season, and aside from the club’s foray into Europe, Newcastle supporters were given little to cheer about.
As well as their erratic league form, last term saw the Magpies crash out of the FA Cup and the League Cup at the first hurdles and potential trips to Wembley were quickly crossed off the fixture list.
The last time the team reached a major cup final was 1999, while their trophy drought now stretches to 44 years, and the sight of clubs such as Swansea City and Wigan Athletic lifting silverware only served as a bitter reminder.
Alan Pardew has been known to field weakened teams in such competitions in the past, but with a less congested campaign ahead, surely a confidence-boosting cup run is what the players and their supporters need?