As preparations for the new Premier League season get into full swing, it’s fair to say Newcastle United still need to strengthen a few areas. Alan Pardew has, as yet, not replaced Loic Remy up front and has been made to wait for the World Cup to finish before doing any more deals for new players.

Tactical alterations also need to be made to turn the Magpies into a side that will look to qualify for the Europa League next term.

Here are five things Pardew needs to improve if Newcastle are to turn their European dream into a possibility:

 

  1. A settled formation

For the most part of last season, Pardew changed between a 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 formation and the team never had time to gel to each particular system. At one point towards the end of the campaign, Pardew even tried a 3-5-2 style which ended badly.

Going into next season, Pardew needs to pick a formation and stick with it. This summer’s new signings may give us a clue into the manager’s thoughts, as he signs certain players that will form the spine of any system.

The capture of Siem de Jong indicates that the Newcastle boss is looking at playing with a “number 10”, meaning the 4-2-3-1 formation looks the most likely. Now the Geordies just need a powerful centre forward to complete the style and give their side enough chance to gel and make the formation work.

 

2. Play Moussa Sissoko in his strongest position

One of the most frustrating things about last season was seeing Sissoko deployed on the right of midfield every week. Despite turning in some good performances there and creating plenty of chances for the team, you can’t help but think Sissoko would have been more effective in the centre of midfield.

Sissoko has proved his worth in the middle this summer with France, as his World Cup performances have seen him play with the athleticism and freedom he became synonymous with while at former club Toulouse.

Moving him into the middle with Cheick Tiote would be a wise move next season, as the Ivorian could anchor the midfield while Sissoko uses his power and incredible stamina to help out in defence as well as provide a goal threat.

 

 3. Sort out the full back positions

Pardew exhausted every option at full back last season. Massadio Haidara, Davide Santon and Paul Dummett were all used at left-back at different times and Mathieu Debuchy was inconsistent on the other side.

Santon is weak defensively and predictable when attacking due to him being right footed, meaning left-back is an area that needs to be improved. Debuchy is set to join Arsenal, opening up the possibility of moving Santon to right-back if a deal for Feyenoord defender Daryl Janmaat somehow falls through.

Should that signing go through, Pardew needs to find a solution to the left-back slot. Santon is clearly still first choice and could cement the position if he simply improved his form but if he doesn’t, Pardew has a challenge to find an answer to.

 

 4. Fix the team’s mentality.

Throughout the second half of last season there were many reports of training ground arguments and players refusing to play. This has to be sorted if Newcastle are to even finish in the top half of the table next season.

Hatem Ben Arfa’s future needs to be sorted one way or another as soon as possible as the Frenchman is key to the mood in the camp. If the former Marseille man is happy and playing well, Newcastle have a genuine match winner that can threaten any Premier League defence. If he’s sulking, he will have a negative attitude on the rest of the squad – especially the French contingent – and be detrimental to Newcastle’s cause.

A positive attitude will go a long way to deciding the Magpies’ final league position next year. The first half of last season was proof of what they can do when they’re playing well and feeling good – the second half was proof of what they can do otherwise.

 

 5. Wingers.

One of the biggest areas where Newcastle struggled last season was on the wings. Ben Arfa fell out of favour and disappeared off the radar, Yoan Gouffran had a huge dip in form after Christmas and Sissoko isn’t a natural wide man.

New recruits are needed in the wide areas badly. Reports have surfaced saying Sylvain Marveaux looks in good shape in pre-season so he could be an option for Pardew but fresh faces are certainly needed.

Chelsea’s Victor Moses could be an option and potentially available on the cheap, while new man Jack Colback has played on the wing before.