Prior to the January transfer window, Newcastle United appeared genuine contenders for relegation. 

However, after their 2-1 victory at home against Stoke on Sunday, the Magpies find themselves nine points clear of the drop-zone and have arguably secured their Premier League status for next season. 

Although Newcastle entered the season with basically the same squad they had when they finished fifth last year, they struggled.

However the difference this season has been a mixture of the unsettled - and eventually sold - Demba Ba, and injuries, highlighting the lack of depth that the Newcastle squad had last season.

There was also a lack of competition for places with players feeling overly comfortable that their names would be on the team-sheet each week.

Newcastle have suffered with the losses of Hatem Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye, Fabricio Collocini and Steven Taylor to injury, along with Cheik Tiote to the African Cup of Nations. 

As such, during the earlier parts of the season they failed to replace such key figures with players of the quality sufficient to allow Newcastle to continue to compete. Indeed they struggled at times and found themselves languishing near the bottom of the table.

However they have started to climb slowly back up the league and this is undoubtedly due to their January signings.

Moussa Sissoko, Yoan Gouffran and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa have all looked like good signings so far and have provided the depth that Newcastle's squad needed. 

The importance of a squad in modern football cannot be underestimated; the number and intensity of games across a season require a good level of depth and variety to a squad, and this seems to be something that some clubs have realised.

Manchester United are the obvious example of strength in depth; they have a number of players who can come in when others are injured or who can provide competition for starting players. 

Newcastle's safety looks to be assured this season, and they will undoubtedly look to recover some of their form from last season in order to push on next year.

They can ultimately be used as an example to other clubs by showing the dangers of having a small squad, and the benefits that new signings can have.


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