Newcastle United are in need of a mass overhaul during the January transfer window but must prioritise signing a striker, according to former defender Warren Barton.
The Magpies are hovering just three points above the relegation zone in the Premier League and have mustered a meagre 21 goals in their 23 top-flight games this term.
Only five sides have netted fewer than Newcastle while no player has netted more than the four scored by Joselu and Ajoze Perez – the club's leading scorers during the 2017-18 campaign. Support strikers Dwight Gayle and Aleksandar Mitrovic have registered just five between them.
Barton played alongside some of the finest forwards to have graced St James' Park in the modern era; among them Alan Shearer the club's all-time record goal scorer – and the 48-year-old wants a player in that mould top of Rafael Benitez's wishlist.
"I think it's everywhere," Barton told newcastletoons.com. "Whether it be a good defender, a strong midfielder or a striker that will score you goals. Goals are obviously what we need, and defensively we've been strong.
"I've been in that position, where sometimes a squad is not necessarily blessed with quality.
"Sometimes it's a numbers game, and I've been on both sides of it. We've had outstanding players like [David] Ginola, Shearer, [Les] Ferdinand or [Faustino] Asprilla.
"Those types of players are going to win you games. But sometimes we've gone in where it has to be a real team effort to get results, and that's what Newcastle are at the moment."
But whether Benitez will be given the funds necessary to improve a Newcastle squad badly in need of surgery remains uncertain, amid the collapse of owner Mike Ashley's takeover talks with leading suitor Amanda Staveley.
Press Association understands Ashley will allow Benitez to make three signings during the January window, following weeks of uncertainty over the funds that would be afforded to him.
The Spaniard has only had £96m to spend during his 22 months at the helm and Barton feels such restrictions could be enough to force him out of the exit door.
"Yeah, I think maybe at the end of the season," he added. "I do think the Mike Ashley deal will go through, and we will see the end of his time as owner. The question now is if there is enough time to bring anyone in.
"But I think Rafa has a real affinity with fans, particularly in the Premier League. Liverpool and Newcastle being great examples, and both have very passionate supporters.
"Rafa can identify with that. Ultimately, I don't think he would leave a sinking ship. I really don't. I think he would try his best to get them into a respectable position."