Newcastle United are without a win in the Premier League – and out of the Capital One Cup.
And head coach Steve McClaren is already under pressure just three months after his appointment.
We look at five things McClaren’s side has lacked so far this season ahead of tomorrow evening’s home game against Chelsea.
What McClaren lacks, above all else, is leadership.
Where are the leaders in his team?
McClaren claimed a few weeks ago that his managerial colleagues were also bemoaning a lack of modern-day leaders.
But it seems to be a particular problem at Newcastle.
Only one player – Daryl Janmaat – has looked anything like a leader so far this season, and captain Fabricio Coloccini has been far too quiet on and off the pitch.
Coloccini – who has never really been a talker – used to lead by example.
But the 33-year-old has only shown glimpses of his former self since committing his future to the club in the summer.
And elsewhere on the pitch there have been shrugs, dropped heads and silence when the team has been up against it.
Only Georginio Wijnaldum was prepared to front up to journalists after the midweek Capital One Cup defeat to Sheffield Wednesday. The rest of the team chose not to speak to supporters through the media.
Fans will understandably wonder whether it’s as quiet in the dressing room as it is on the pitch.
Newcastle are still without a win in the Premier League this season.
And it’s not hard to see why when you look at the table.
McClaren’s side have scored three goals in six games, and they also drew a blank in the midweek Capital One Cup defeat to Sheffield Wednesday’s reserves.
After that loss, McClaren put it simply: “If you don’t score, you don’t win.”
Just where are the goals coming to come from?
Papiss Demba Cisse has looked like a player who no longer wants to be at the club, while Aleksandar Mitrovic, back from a three-game suspension tomorrow, could take the any more months to adjust to Premier League football.
Emmanuel Riviere – who scored one league goal last season – is injured.
That leaves 22-year-old Ayoze Perez as the club’s best hope of bringing goals to Newcastle.
McClaren had wanted Queens Park Rangers’ Charlie Austin in the summer, but the club baulked at his £15million price tag and chose not bid for him.
That decision rom managing director Lee Charnley could prove far more costly in the long run.
Defending as rarely been a strongpoint for Newcastle over the past 20 years.
And McClaren pledged to build from the back after arriving at St James’s Park, having looked at last season’s defensive record.
Yet the club is faring no better than it was in the latter months of last season.
Injuries haven’t helped – Steven Taylor and Paul Dummett are sidelined – but some of the schoolboy defending we’ve seen so far this season is unforgivable from highly-paid professionals.
The team has lacked a commanding centre-half in the absence of Taylor, who helped the team keep a clean sheet at Old Trafford on his only Premier League appearance.
Coloccini, as the captain, must do better.
And the full-backs must get the balance right between attacking and defending.
But the back four does need more protection from midfield, and if Newcastle are to stop leaking goals, they will have to defend from the front.
A SYSTEM THAT WORKS
McClaren was quick to spell out what he wanted from his Newcastle team.
After his appointment, McClaren talked of bringing a brand of attacking football to St James’s Park. He wanted his team to play from the back, move the ball forward quickly and get balls into the box.
Georginio Wijnaldum’s strike against Southampton on the opening weekend of the season was an example of the way he wanted to play.
But all too often this season, United have looked muddled. They’ve lacked fluency and fluidity.
And most recently, a Championship reserve team was able to stop Newcastle playing without too many problems.
McClaren himself has admitted United are yet to have an identity.
He also conceded that doesn’t yet know his best team.
McClaren must find his team team – and quickly.
... AND UNITY?
Are Newcastle truly united?
McClaren admitted this week that dressing rooms are rarely “harmonious” places, and supporters are questioning the unity behind the scenes.
The team has looked disunited on the pitch at times this season.
What hasn’t helped was the failure to move on and replace some of those players who, clearly, have become unsettled at the club over the past 12 months.
McClaren dismissed a claim that midfielder Cheick Tiote was a “bad egg” this week.
But there’s a stench at St James’s Park right now, and that has translated into some stinking performances.