The transfer window closes next Monday, meaning the North-East’s big three clubs have six days to complete their business for the summer. Chief Sports Writer Scott Wilson looks at the three biggest questions hanging over Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough this week
Newcastle are one of only three clubs not to have scored a Premier League goal this season, and while the capture of Emmanuel Riviere, Ayoze Perez and Facundo Ferrerya has increased their attacking threat, they remain short of goalscoring options.
Alan Pardew claims he would be happy to go into the rest of the season with the players currently on the books, but a decent summer could be transformed into a hugely successful one with the addition of another proven striker.
A final push for QPR’s Loic Remy is possible, with Alexandre Lacazette remaining a long-term target despite Lyon’s persistent refusal to reduce their £14m valuation of the 23-year-old.
Will Cheick Tiote be leaving on deadline day?
If previous transfer windows are anything to go by, it would be naive to rule out the departure of a big-name player this week, and Tiote is by far the most likely to be heading through the exit door for a lucrative fee.
Mike Ashley doesn’t have to sell to balance the books, but on previous evidence, he would find it extremely hard to reject a £10m-plus offer for Tiote, especially with Jack Colback having arrived to bolster Newcastle’s central-midfield options this summer.
Arsenal have been extensively linked with Tiote this month, and remain in the market for a holding midfielder, while Lokomotiv Moscow could opt to increase the ‘derisory’ offer that was rejected last week.
What will happen to Hatem Ben Arfa?
The Ben Arfa trail has gone cold in recent weeks, but expect it to heat up again in the next few days with Newcastle desperate to move the exiled French midfielder out of the club before the transfer window closes.
Pardew has clearly decided there is no way back for the 27-year-old, who has not even been training with Newcastle’s senior squad this summer, and is worried Ben Arfa will be a negative influence if he remains on Tyneside until January.
With a year left on Ben Arfa’s contract, Ashley must decide whether to accept a cut-price fee, with a number of French Ligue 1 sides looking for a bargain. Perhaps a season-long loan will be a compromise acceptable to all?
How will the Fabio Borini saga end?
It has been the subject of conjecture throughout the summer, but Borini’s future will have to be resolved one way or the other by next Monday evening and Sunderland remain confident they have a strong chance of luring the Liverpool striker back to the Stadium of Light.
That would almost certainly be on loan as Borini does not want to commit his long-term future to the Black Cats, having watched them almost crash into the Championship last season.
Assuming, as looks likely, Liverpool sign Mario Balotelli, Borini’s chances at Anfield will be further reduced, and with Champions League clubs hardly beating down the door to acquire his services, the Italian might well view another season at Sunderland as an increasingly attractive proposition.
Who else will be coming to the Stadium of Light?
Regardless of what happens with Borini, Sunderland still need a couple of other additions to ensure they are adequately covered in all areas of the field.
Finances are tight, so any last-minute business is likely to result in loan deals, although talks with Lille over Salomon Kalou have broached both a loan and a permanent switch. Either way, the Ivorian is likely to join Sunderland unless Wolfsburg offer lucrative personal terms.
The Black Cats could also do with another defender, hence their ongoing interest in Leeds United’s Sam Byram. Might the ongoing instability at Elland Road enhance their chances of snaffling a bargain?
Will anyone be leaving before the window closes?
Given the lack of depth in the Sunderland squad, Gus Poyet will be extremely reluctant to lose anyone in the final week of the window.
That said, Connor Wickham’s contractual situation remains unresolved, meaning the Black Cats are vulnerable to an offer of £6-8m for the striker. With West Ham seemingly out of the running though, it is hard to see anyone offering that.
Ideally, Sunderland would like to offload some of their forgotten men, such as Cabral, Modibo Diakite and Charis Mavrias.
Who will finally arrive from Chelsea?
Aitor Karanka has talked about adding further players from Chelsea for a number of weeks, but as things stand, Kenneth Omeruo remains the only one of Jose Mourinho’s men on loan at the Riverside.
Patrick Bamford was at Rockliffe Hall last week though, and is finally expected to complete a loan deal within the next 24 hours which will boost Boro's attacking strength.
The Boro head coach has also been in discussions about Lewis Baker and George Saville, and at least one of the pair is expected to complete a season-long switch this week.
Will Boro receive a standout offer for one of their star names?
Having received fees for both Marvin Emnes and Lukas Jutkiewicz this summer, there is no pressing need to sell anyone else before the window closes.
However, as a Championship club, Boro will always be vulnerable if a Premier League club comes calling and a number of their key assets have been linked with a possible move to the top-flight in the past.
Albert Adomah, who is a long-standing target of Nottingham Forest, would appear to be of most appeal to top-flight teams, although George Friend and Adam Reach could also be of interest.
What will happen to Jason Steele?
Steele has become Middlesbrough’s forgotten man, not even making the bench despite Tomas Mejias’ struggles to adapt to the English game.
To his credit, the former England Under-21 international has maintained a dignified silence since being dropped by Karanka last autumn, but he is unlikely to remain so reserved if he is unable to engineer an exit strategy from the Riverside this month.
With an absence of permanent offers, Steele might have to accept a loan move to kick-start his career, although very few of Boro’s Championship rivals appear to have a vacancy in the goalkeeping department.