With four points on the board from a possible nine and progress in the League Cup, Newcastle United have enjoyed a steady, if unspectacular start to the 2013-14 campaign.
The club’s failings in the summer transfer market are well documented, but now manager Alan Pardew must move forward with what he’s got until the window reopens in January.
So with the players that he has at his disposal, we look at five ways Pardew and his backroom team can improve their side as they look to guide them up the Premier League table.
Will Steven Taylor win his place back in Newcastle's back four?
At the beginning of the 2011-12 season, Newcastle United were able to name an unchanged back four for the first 13 games of their Premier League campaign.
The upshot? The Magpies lost just one of their opening 13 fixtures—a run that laid the foundations for their fifth-place finish and European qualification the following May.
With successive clean sheets already registered against West Ham and Fulham this term, Alan Pardew will be keen to add to those shutouts over the coming weeks.
The Toon boss knows all about the benefits of naming a settled unit, and with a healthy stock of centre-halves and full-backs to choose from, the sooner he decides on his first-choice defence the better.
Papiss Cisse is not and has never been a traditional target man. But that didn’t stop Newcastle United using him as one for long spells of last season.
Too often their direct approach isolated the striker, but despite a lack of support during the second half of the campaign, the Toon’s No. 9 still managed to chip in with 13 goals.
Alan Pardew now has the opportunity to play to the 28-year-old’s strengths, and offer him the kind of width that saw the Senegalese striker make a memorable impact following his arrival in January last year.
Back then, Cisse reaped the rewards at the centre of a three-man attack, and with Hatem Ben Arfa in good form and Loic Remy ready to make an impact, the Magpies can once more offer Cisse the kind of backing he craves.
With Yohan Cabaye ready to be reinstated to Newcastle United’s midfield following his self-imposed absence, Alan Pardew must make sure he has time and space to pull the strings.
In a report by Lee Ryder in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, the Magpies boss insists that the midfielder has put all talk of a move away from Tyneside behind him and is “ready to fire” for the club once more.
If he is to fire, the Frenchman will need a solid defensive base behind him, and Pardew must utilise the likes of Cheick Tiote and Vurnon Anita to provide such security.
Despite prompting a mixed response from the club’s supporters following the collapse of his proposed move to Arsenal, now is the time for Pardew to help the 27-year-old win over his doubters.
In Yohan Cabaye’s and Cheick Tiote’s absence during the early stages of the season, Dutchman Vurnon Anita has grabbed his chance with both hands at Newcastle and could become central to Alan Pardew's plans.
His performances in the midfield holding role in their last two Premier League games have won him praise from his manager as well as from the terraces.
With a combined pass success rate of over 88 percent against West Ham and Fulham, his engine room role was pivotal, and the former Ajax man kept things simple to good effect.
His calming influence could be put to good use by Pardew and encourage the likes of Moussa Sissoko and Yohan Cabaye to act on their attacking urges.
One of the most promising aspects of Newcastle United’s season so far has been the form of Hatem Ben Arfa, whose stunning late goal earned all three points against Fulham.
Seemingly, the Frenchman has put his injury problems behind him, and though he often frustrates fans and teammates alike, his jinking runs and eye for goal make him a huge threat.
Though Alan Pardew often prefers to utilise the former Marseille man out wide, his direct approach often leads him infield, where he can do real damage from a distance.
And if the Magpies are to continue to get the best out of the 26-year-old, his abilities need to be supported and encouraged from the bench.