With Steve Harper now fit enough to resume his duties, and Tim Krul doing a decent job in goal, I'd be astonished if Fraser Forster wasn't allowed to continue his footballing education at Parkhead. The challenge will come in the summer, when I suspect we'll have to make a straight choice of two from three, but for now this is one position that shouldn't need too much time spending on it.
With Steven Taylor now signed on for a few more years, and Mike Williamson and Sideshow Bob generally doing well, we look OK in the centre of defence. Certainly Sol Campbell doesn't look to have long left in him, but with Tamas Kadar also floating around, we shouldn't be rushing out and spending loads of cash on a new centre-back (and potentially should contemplate loaning out the young Hungarian to get some more experience ahead of next season).
Full-back is a slightly different story. While Danny Simpson and Jose Enrique have carried on their good form from last year, James Perch has yet to suggest he has the quality to adapt to this level and in any event (as the recent match against Spurs showed) he's not a natural left back, meaning we could do to bring in cover. Shane Ferguson had a good game in the League Cup, but whether the coaches seem prepared to let him learn in the first team seems doubtful and if he isn't going to step up, we need to find an alternative.
Of the central midfielders at our disposal, Tiote, ASBO and Nolan have all enjoyed an excellent first half of the season. However, when given opportunities neither Alan Smith nor Danny Guthrie have done particularly well, meaning we're only ever a red card away from looking undermanned. Equally, down the flanks Spidermag has done OK, but Wayne Routledge hasn't produced anything like the consistency we'd hoped (which is why ASBO has spent so much of the season down the right hand side). Hopefully, Hatem Ben Arfa isn't too far away from a return to action, which would definitely be a boost to the cause, and rumours abound that we're looking to sign him up permanently even though he's only played a smattering of games. Hopefully Dan Gosling might also be able to play a game in anger for us before too much longer. However, the reality is that an extra body, particularly one with a few creative juices flowing through it, might not go amiss.
Without question, the star man of the season so far has been our number nine. His goals and all-round physicality, allied to his touch and turn of pace, have been enough to trouble some of the finest defences in the league and seen Fabio Capello rightly give him his first senior cap. The first challenge for Pardew is therefore to keep hold of Rocky.
However, the supporting cast isn't that impressive. Big Lad has done quite well, but hasn't been particularly prolific, and when given his chances Lovenkrands hasn't looked threatening, so much so that Nile Ranger looks to have leapfrogged the Dane in the attacking pecking order. However, the youngster is still very raw and needs more game time if he's to progress.
The forgotten man in all this is Leon Best, who was banging them in during pre-season, only to be injured before the campaign had begun. He's now back fit, but looks a long way from getting a first team start. If we're looking to raise some cash, might a striker who has form at Championship level be an asset we might part with?
What seems clear is that, with the possible exception of Best, we can't really afford to lose anyone in the window (and certainly not Rocky, ASBO or Tiote who have been our three most consistent performers to date). We can only assume that Pardew must have sought some assurances about money for signings before he agreed to accept the manager's job (and the suspicion remains that one of the reasons Hughton was handed his marching orders was a distrust on the part of the board as to how he spent Jabba's money), but as to how much and who is available, we'll have to wait and see.