Rafa Benitez says that the real positive thing about his centre-forward Aleksandar Mitrovic…is that he wanted to get back onto the pitch even after being knocked unconscious minutes earlier.
However, Benitez also says that another good thing was that the club doctor was strong enough to stop Mitrovic getting back onto the pitch and potentially doing himself lasting harm.
Obviously a player’s health and safety is the overriding factor but in purely football terms, Mitrovic having to stay on the sidelines meant that the match was then destined for a draw.
The late Mitrovic equaliser had ensure that all late momentum was with Newcastle and even when United were reduced to 10 men, Allardyce’s ultra second half negative tactics and substitutions meant Sunderland had no interest in trying to exploit that extra man advantage.
Rafa Benitez also said out loud what supporters have known all season – that the service to Mitrovic has been woeful all season and must be improved.
Newcastle spent big money in the summer on a centre-forward who scores most of his goals with his head…only to then fail to have any strategy as to how to get a regular supply of crosses into the former Anderlecht forward.
You can only imagine that Florian Thauvin was supposed to be a key part of that jigsaw and his first start for Newcastle promised much, albeit against League Two opposition, as United beat Northampton 4-1 in the League Cup – Thauvin scoring and creating the other three goals.
The quality of crossing at the club has been woeful for years and Gini Wijnaldum’s excellent ball in was a bit of a collector’s item, as I reckon Mitrovic has maybe only had a dozen or so similar decent crosses into dangerous areas all season.
With the Serbian’s total lack of pace, it is obvious Newcastle have to work positions where they can get the ball into Mitrovic when he is in the box, rather than giving it to him outside it and expecting something to happen.
“He (Mitrovic) has the potential, so we have to help him a little bit with better crosses, better deliveries, and support him and being closer to him. He will score goals if we do that…
“In this case with Mitrovic, the positive thing is that he wanted to play.
“The good thing about the doctor is he was stopping him just in case, and I think he was right, because he was unconscious and so you have to protect the player.
“I am here because I have to give the team confidence and we have to improve things.
“Against Leicester, we could see a lot of good things, but still not enough. Against Sunderland, in the second half, there were a lot of good things but not enough.
“We now have the international break and we can keep working with the rest of the players that will be here, and hopefully we can improve. We have eight games to play and we know that it could be difficult.
“What we have to do is to prepare for the next game, try to analyse what we did badly and try and change these things.
“We are creating chances, we are attacking and we can be there, so we have to improve this part of the game and then create more chances, then Mitrovic or Papiss Cisse or the other strikers will score more goals and we’ll be fine.”