The celebrations at the final whistle of Newcastle United's 1-0 win over Burnley gave the impression that Eddie Howe was on the verge of turning things around. But while that talk was clearly premature, given Burnley's dreadful form and the disappointing draw with Norwich City only days earlier, the bubble has well and truly been burst after a crushing 4-0 loss at Leicester City and a 3-1 defeat by Liverpool.
Losing to Jurgen Klopp's side was expected, but the Leicester result is a cause for concern. Newcastle were dreadful, as poor as they have been under Howe so far, showing all the glaring flaws in defence and midfield that have left them mired in the bottom three.
To have lost all of that momentum and goodwill so quickly is hugely alarming - and yet Newcastle are only three points behind 17th-place Watford, who are on a run of four consecutive defeats.
In other words, there is plenty of time to turn things around and survive the drop, although that seems impossible without major additions in January.
But signing the right players will be extremely difficult. Newcastle are caught in limbo, wanting to sign top-level players that will help them become European challengers in the next couple of years even while they battle against the drop. It is hard to know what kind of player would take the risk of playing Championship football, no matter how much money they are offered.
Where Newcastle need to improve
The good form of Joelinton, finally playing in his best second-striker role rather than treated as a target man, suggests Newcastle don't need too much in the way of attackers. Thy don't need to be free-scoring to stay up, and with Allan Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson up front this is arguably Howe's best-stocked area of the pitch.
The main concern is central defence, not only because the current players clearly aren't good enough but because Howe has never been much of a defensive coach. His Bournemouth team, who attempted to play an expansive game and therefore left big gaps between players when building out from the back, were often far too porous. We saw that happen against Liverpool last night.
Bournemouth conceded a minimum of 61 goals in each of their five seasons in the top flight, and averaged 66, which suggests Howe will need strong, reliable, and quick centre-backs in January. There isn't enough speed or agility in the current crop to cope with a more adventurous style of football, as we saw in the way Leicester tore through at the weekend.
Newcastle also badly need a new defensive midfielder. Howe will continue with a 4-4-1-1, asking a lot of a two-man midfield which currently seems far too weak. Jonjo Shelvey and Joe Willock lack the defensive attributes to work together.
Lingard and Tarkowski not good options
The 'to sign for Newcastle before 3rd February 2022' market has 29 names on it, some who have been regularly linked with the club over the last few months and others complete wildcards; Mohamed Salah is available at the surprisingly short odds of 66/1.
More realistic are Premier League players who have either outgrown their current team in the relegation fight or fringe players battling for a first-team spot a bit higher up the table. That is why the favourite is Jesse Lingard at 1.834/5, although with Lingard reluctant to leave Manchester United it would be strange for him to take such a big risk. Surely the interest of West Ham United 1.84/5, where he previously enjoyed a good spell, is a bigger pull for him.
James Tarkowski 2.26/5 is probably the most nailed-on. He has long been linked with a move to a top-half club and is widely regarded as a powerful leader at the back, although Newcastle fans should perhaps be a little wary. Burnley defenders, coached to sit in a low block with plenty of bodies around them, often look worse once they leave Sean Dyche; the error-prone Michael Keane is the best example.
Botman and Ramsey likely to sign
The Guardian reports that 21-year-old Lille centre-back Sven Botman is high on the list, too, hence the short odds of 2.77/4. He would be an astute acquisition for sure, and despite interest from AC Milan the lure of the Premier League should be strong - while nobody else in England is going to stump up £40 million for him.
The next two favourites in the market are Anthony Martial 3.55/2 and Aaron Ramsey 3.7511/4. The former's link seems purely because his agent has made it clear Martial is looking for a move in January, but with Juventus and Atletico Madrid circling it would be a huge shock if such a talented player moved to the bottom end of the Premier League.
Ramsey looks more likely. Juve will reportedly be happy to let Ramsey go on a free just to get him off the wage bill, and Newcastle may be the only suitor willing to pay his £230,000-per-week salary. It would be a real statement signing, too, kickstarting the new era and potentially luring other star names to St. James Park.
Ake & Williams are outsiders
It is striking there are no defensive midfielders on the list, and Newcastle fans will be hoping that simply reflects moves being made under the radar and kept out of the press. Rangers' Glen Kamara was widely expected to join up with his old manager Steven Gerrard at Aston Villa, but the emergence of Marvelous Nakamba throws that into doubt. Kamara would certainly be a good addition.
Nathan Ake 4.57/2 is said to be a target of West Ham, who it would appear are leading the way in the same market place as Newcastle, but if the Dutch defender wants to leave on loan this window then presumably only Howe's side can afford the wages.
Finally, Neco Williams 10.09/1 is a good long-shot, partly because he needs a loan move and has impressed for Wales this season, partly because Newcastle could do with an upgrade at right-back, and partly because it is such an unsexy signing. The odds are long because this transfer doesn't grab attention.
And that, fundamentally, is what Newcastle need more of; solid, unflashy upgrades that can help them in the dogfight that lies ahead.