As Newcastle United enter the final stages of the season, their focus will turn towards the summer after what can be judged as a success of a campaign.
Making the step back up to the Premier League after a year away in the Championship, the Magpies’ hopes of survival looked under real threat over the winter as they picked up just one point from a possible 27, leaving them in the lurch.
However 2018 has been much brighter for Rafael Benitez and his men, with just three league defeats since the turn of the year and a run of four successive wins, ended on Monday by Everton, launching them into the top half of the table.
So with just four games left to play (prior to Saturday’s clash against West Brom) what comes next for the Magpies?
Well, regardless of the potential takeover talks their focus will no doubt be on the transfer window, as they look to avoid the errors they have made in recent years by under-investing – although with Mike Ashley at the helm, that is always a possibility.
As was the case last summer and over the winter window, a striker will be a priority, with the current options failing to have the desired impact this year.
Islam Slimani was meant to be the man to strengthen the forward line in January but injuries have limited him to just three appearances, one of those coming in the starting XI.
However, despite starting last week against Everton, he was snubbed in favour of Dwight Gayle for Saturday’s showdown against West Brom, and the major decision really does make his uncertain future clear as day.
If Benitez was still mulling over signing the Algerian star permanently from Leicester, then there is little doubt he would be starting him in a game in which there is very little pressure, in a bid to see what he can offer to the starting XI.
Instead he is on the bench, and Newcastle will not be splashing the cash on a man who is only good enough to act as support to Gayle, so unless there is a major change, Slimani’s time on Tyneside will be short lived.
In other Newcastle United news, the club’s fans were left distraught by an ominous update posted by the Magpies.