In Focus: Botman key to plugging Toon's leaky defence
The return of Sven Botman from injury last weekend was a welcome boost for Newcastle.
His imperious defensive performances alongside Fabian Schar helped the Magpies break into the Premier League top four last season.
So it is no surprise Newcastle kept their first clean sheet of this term with Botman back as they beat Brentford 1-0 at St James' Park.
Ahead of today's clash with Sheffield United, we take a look at the centre-back's importance to Eddie Howe's team.
Botman followed his impressive showing against the Bees with another solid display in Tuesday's 0-0 draw with AC Milan in the Champions League.
But the 23-year-old has clearly set high standards for both himself and his team-mates.
After the match at the San Siro, he said: "I think our performance could be better. I know what we're capable of, we were not really ourselves today.
"It's a tournament and you can grow in the tournament — and to take a point here against a good opponent is good.
"It's always hard to put your finger on the point after a game. We have to discuss and analyse the game and we'll see what we can do better."
Those high standards dipped in Botman's absence, particularly in Newcastle's 3-1 defeat at Brighton earlier this month.
With Dan Burn shifted over to the centre of defence to partner Schar, there was a noticeable lack of cohesion at the back.
No Newcastle player has won more aerial duels per 90 minutes (2.27) or won more possessions in the defensive third per 90 (4.29) than Botman in the Premier League this season.
Botman's ability on the ball is also impressive and perhaps an underappreciated aspect of his game.
In the top flight last season, he boasted a better passing accuracy (86.77%) than any of his team-mates and was second only to Kieran Trippier for completed passes (1,522).
The former Lille defender brings a level of composure and calmness that is missed when he is out of action.
Howe has made his admiration for Botman clear.
In December, he said: "He [Botman] has the tools to be as good as any other centre-half talked about in Premier League history.
"I wouldn't put a ceiling on what he can achieve. He's got everything, in my view, I don't see a weakness in his game.
"On the ball, he is outstanding. Technically he is very high level and can play short and long passes. He has all the tools.
"He has got an understanding very quickly and picked up the pace of the Premier League very quickly, the physicality."
If Newcastle are to battle for a top-four spot again this season and progress in the Champions League, they will need Botman fit and at the peak of his powers.