Newcastle manager Alan Pardew admits his first target this season is simply to keep the Magpies in the Premier League.
The club have played their part in two festive thrillers this week but came away with nothing despite scoring a combined six goals in defeats to Manchester United and Arsenal.
Those results have left Newcastle flirting with the danger zone in 15th place – after finishing fifth last campaign – although Pardew is convinced his side can turn their season around.
“I’ve never looked away from the bottom of the league, to be honest,” Pardew said. “Any Premier League manager outside of the top four or five clubs who says he doesn’t look at getting 40 points first is telling a fib.
“We are 20 points short at the moment so we’ve got a bit to do. We’ve got good players to come back and we’re going to make an impact in this league at some point.
“But we don’t want to leave it too late. My priority is to get my best team out on the pitch if I can. Steven Taylor and Yohan Cabaye will be back soon and that will help significantly.”
Pardew complained that their 7-3 hammering at the hands of Arsenal was founded in part by the longer break the Gunners had enjoyed having seen their Boxing Day match against West Ham cancelled.
“There was a definite difference between the two teams in terms of energy levels,” he said.
“And we didn’t really have enough defensive players on the bench to shore it up.
“We knew that this little run was going to be difficult when we got the fixtures in August. But the six or seven players we’ve got missing could have made a difference.”
Newcastle were dealt a further blow when reports claimed that Demba Ba, who has a release clause of around seven million pounds in his contract, would meet Chelsea regarding a proposed move to Stamford Bridge.
“Demba is out of my hands – there is nothing I can do about it,” Pardew said. “What will be, will be.”