There is no doubt about it: things need to change for Alan Pardew's Newcastle United, and fast. The Magpies endured a miserable 2012-13, which means right from the start of the season, their manager will be under pressure to deliver or else lose his job.
Sixteenth place in the league was a disaster for one of England's most supported clubs. Newcastle finished the season just five points shy of the relegation zone, causing many fans to fret over a possible return to the Championship from which they only escaped in 2010.
Pardew is known as a pragmatic, no-frills type of boss, so any supporters expecting great tactical surprises from him as we creep towards the start of 2013-14 will most likely be disappointed.
There are a few names, however, that could breathe new life into the stuttering Magpies while staying faithful to the manager's favoured style.
Having hit the net just 45 times across the entire Premier League season, up front must be one of Pardew's top priorities to strengthen his ranks. This problem was made only worse when top scorer Demba Ba jumped ship for Chelsea in January of this year, leaving Newcastle without a regular scorer.
One possible option would be Darren Bent, currently at Aston Villa. The striker knows Pardew's tactics intimately from their days together at Charlton, where Bent showed form impressive enough to secure a multi-million-pound move to Tottenham.
Fast, strong and also equipped with no little amount of talent, Bent could definitely add something to the Magpies' front line. As The Mirror states, director of football Joe Kinnear is determined to make the player his first signing of the window.
Alongside Bent, Milan's French teenager M'Baye Niang has also appeared on Newcastle's radar as transfer activity heats up. The 18-year-old is wonderfully talented on the ball and, although still raw, would give Pardew a much needed creative option to galvanise his team.
Whether they can complete the transfer remains unknown. According to ESPN, Milan are unwilling to commit to any deal before Champions League qualification is assured.
Milan's Italian rivals Sampdoria are also interested, but if a transfer is to take place, Newcastle may have to wait until the very eve of August 31 to complete it.
There are no shortage of strikers, it seems, on Alan Pardew's summer wishlist. Desperate to bolster an attacking force that has not looked the same since Demba Ba parted for greener pastures, the coach could be prepared to delve into the Championship in order to find his man.
According to the Independent, Loic Remy of Queens Park Rangers has been lined up as a possible signing, whether or not the approach for Darren Bent comes off. Former goalkeeper Steve Harper is enthused with the possibility of a short-term deal for the Frenchman:
Obviously having spent 20 years here, I am a Newcastle fan and the same as everybody else, we keep an eye on it, watch it closely.
There seem to be some positive noises about players coming in now. The likes of maybe Remy coming on loan would be a very good signing.
Although it was Newcastle's inability in front of goal that took most of the headlines in the past year, their defence was hardly an impenetrable wall. With 68 goals conceded only three teams suffered a worse record in their own net than the Magpies.
Tim Krul appears settled in the Newcastle net and can hardly be blamed for the shortcomings of those in front of him. Nonetheless, some competition for the No. 1 jersey could ensure that the goalkeeper stays on top form, and who better to provide it than his countryman?
The Mirror stated last week that PSV Eindhoven's Jeroen Zoet was close to completing a £2.25m deal to move to Tyneside, and while the 22-year-old would originally arrive as backup, his presence in the dressing room and in training would be a welcome shot in the arm for the first choice.
The 27-year-old striker, nicknamed Baby Drogba, has been linked with St James Park throughout the transfer window. Fast, strong and potent in front of goal just like the Ivorian, Gomis could be ready to leave Lyon after four years of impeccable service.
The Magpies saw a £6.9m bid rejected earlier in the week, as revealed by The Guardian, but nevertheless are still confident of landing the France international before September.