Can Aleksandar Mitrovic be the player we all want him to be?
As I look at the situation now, so much rests on the broad shoulders of Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Strikers/goalscorers always cost a premium and want to play at the highest level, something Newcastle can’t offer at this moment in time.
Dwight Gayle has arrived for around £10m, a very good goals to starts ratio in the top two divisions but hasn’t played enough matches to have a proven track record yet.
Then we have Ayoze Perez who has made a decent contribution over the course of the last two seasons but who you always feel has so much more to offer.
Adam Armstrong could yet end up going out on loan, whilst Emmanuel Riviere is…Emmanuel Riviere.
So, Aleksandar Mitrovic.
There is enormous goodwill towards the Serbian striker from Newcastle supporters.
A player who says all the right things…and appears to mean it, whilst on the pitch he has shown himself to be genuine most of the time – give or take the odd moment of weakness.
After 28 goals bullying Belgian defences (and the odd Champions League one) in 2014/15, Mitrovic found life tougher in the Premier League, scoring nine goals in 36 appearances (13 of them as a substitute).
In addition, we saw two ridiculous red cards, the second of which means the forward misses the first four games of the Championship, a major handicap to Rafa Benitez as he has been forced to play Gayle & Perez and leave Mitrovic on the bench in the last couple of friendlies.
Also, it was very bizarre to see in a handful of matches that Mitrovic was prone to play acting. Writhing around on the ground after imaginary fouls and/or vast exaggerations after challenges.
A big dilemma for Rafa who has plenty of cash to spend on another striker, thanks to Wijnaldum jumping ship and Sissoko’s impending departure.
Newcastle fans really want Mitrovic to be the main man but can he do it?
At 21 he certainly has youth on his side but an obvious lack of mobility at such a young age is worrying.
In the Championship, we can expect Newcastle to dominate a lot more in may matches, enabling Mitrovic to be in position to meet crosses. Whereas last season, often if Newcastle broke quickly – which was often the plan under McClaren, he wasn’t able to get up the pitch in time.
If he is to lead the line then Rafa Benitez will have to form his team around Mitrovic, getting pace around him to counter the Serbian’s lack of it. Up to a point you could maybe compare it with Alan Shearer’s latter days, when the likes of Bellamy, Dyer and others complemented the number nine’s other qualities after injury had made him change his game.
In Ritchie and Gayle, Rafa has certainly added pace, with Rolando Aarons also quick off the mark.
I’m not though convinced that Perez and Mitrovic can play as a front two, or at least not ideally. The Spaniard often shows he is a clever player but lacks a yard of pace.
To bring the best out of Mitrovic, maybe Rafa Benitez needs to bring another attacking player, as insurance that we can play the right players around the former Anderlecht striker to ensure there are enough goals in the team.
A big season for everybody but no one more so than Aleksandar Mitrovic, a player who has many hints of a classic Newcastle number nine but now has to add more goals and smarten up his all round play, as well as maturing in his temperament.
It could prove a glorious marriage between Mitrovic and the club/fans but it is simply down to him now.
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