Steve Bruce has admitted that his Newcastle team will live or die on what his strikers are able to deliver.
The Magpies secured their Premier League status under Rafael Benitez last season by scoring just 42 goals in their 38 games, and that is a statistic upon which Bruce knows they must improve this time around if they are to avoid another battle for survival.
Twenty-three of those goals came from Ayoze Perez and Salomon Rondon, who have since departed, and the pressure will be on new record signing Joelinton and fellow summer arrivals Allan Saint-Maximin and Andy Carroll, as well as January acquisition Miguel Almiron, to provide the required firepower.
Bruce said: “I’ve always said that you’re only ever as good as your strikers. You can defend as much as you want, but if you’ve got someone at the top end of the pitch that scores, you’re always in the game.
“When you play the big teams, defensively you have to be spot on, but I’ve always thought it’s vital that you cause your opponents problems, and we’ve got that threat at the top end of the pitch.
“A team of mine will always try to play on the front foot if we can and try to score a goal.”
The opening fixture could hardly provide a much tougher test of a new-look Newcastle’s credentials, with Arsenal due at St James’ Park on Sunday amid a backdrop of unrest following Benitez’s departure.
However, the Spaniard’s 58-year-old successor is determined to give wavering fans something to shout about.
He said: “Everybody is entitled to boycott if that’s what they want to do. They pay their hard-earned money and they’re welcome to their opinion.
“But I don’t want it to upset the team. I hope – and I’m convinced they will – that I and the team will give them something to shout about. That’s all I can focus on. I want to give them a team they can associate with and be proud of.”
Carroll’s return to the club at which he emerged from the ranks may go some way towards doing that if the Magpies can get him fit, and that is one of Bruce’s main aims for the weeks ahead.
He said: “He doesn’t have anything to prove as a footballer. When he’s at his best, he’s unplayable. When he got that move to Liverpool, he was unplayable at times because of his physicality, his pace, his power and his technique.”
Get the best features, fun and footballing frolics straight to your inbox every week.
Thank you for signing up to Four Four Two. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.