Aleksandar Mitrovic is the most talked about Newcastle player, whether he is playing or not.
Fans appear to think of him in one of two ways: a wholehearted passionate striker who could possibly be the next great Newcastle United number nine (even though he has temporarily allowed Dwight Gayle to borrow the shirt…), or a bit of a bungling slowcoach donkey who can’t help but get himself into trouble at regular intervals.
Although thinking about it, there is probably a third group of Newcastle fans, those who carry both of these opinions at the same time…
However, surely with a centre forward it is pretty much the only position on the pitch that is relatively easy to gauge, as Alan Shearer might say, put your goals on the table.
Even here though, despite it being plain statistics that everybody can agree on, they can’t.
This is how Aleksandar Mitrovic has scored his goals so far, for all teams, in all competitions:
Teleoptik (Serbian second tier)
7 goals in 26 games (24 starts and 2 sub appearances)
Partizan (Serbian first tier)
18 goals in 42 games (25 starts and 17 sub appearances)
Anderlecht (Belgian second tier)
44 goals in 90 games (84 starts and 6 sub appearances)
Newcastle United (English first and second tier)
10 goals in 39 games (25 starts and 14 sub appearances)
In his club career so far, in total Mitrovic has scored 79 goals in 158 starts, exactly a goal every other time he has been picked to start (plus 39 appearances as a sub).
At international level (Under 19, Under 21 and full international) Mitrovic has scored another 13 goals in 35 starts (plus 6 as a sub).
Turning 22 on Friday, it now gives Aleksandar Mitrovic a career record so far of 92 goals.
Surely 92 goals for a player who has just turned 22, is a great return in anybody’s reckoning. However, critics will still claim that a lot of the goals scored haven’t been at the top level – citing Mitrovic ‘only’ scoring nine goals last season.
Looking at the stats above, the Serbian striker’s goal return actually improved as he moved up leagues – from the Serbian second tier up to the top division, then once again when he moved on to Belgium.
Considering the shambles Newcastle United were last season and the desperate lack of quality balls into the box until Andros Townsend’s late arrival, I would argue that nine goals in 22 starts and 12 sub appearances, is pretty decent for a 20 year old arriving in the self-proclaimed best league in the world.
I think it was unfortunate and an error of judgement by Rafa Benitez to not start Aleksandar Mitrovic against Wolves yesterday.
After scoring his first goal of the season on Tuesday and celebrating his birthday on Friday, to leave him out was simply baffling.
He would have been buzzing and surely the perfect chance to unleash the Mitrovic/Gayle partnership.
Yes he missed that one on one when he came on but we all know he isn’t a clinical finisher, he is a striker you need on the pitch from the start because of the contribution he can make throughout, not as an impact sub.
Personally, I think Rafa has to decide on his spine of the team (strike partnership, central midfield pair and centre-backs) and play them game in game out, making odd changes here and there and possibly resting the players in this spine of the team once in a while. Rather than totally changing from Mitro and Perez up front on Tuesday, to Gayle and Diame yesterday.
In Aleksandar Mitrovic, Rafa has to trust.