Aleksandar Mitrovic v Daryl Murphy – The Big Debate.
Who deserves a spot in the starting 11?
First things first, I’d like to point out that I think football teams look better with a big target man. I guess I’m just old fashioned that way.
That being said, Newcastle United have two proper target men on their books but there is only room on the team sheet for one (though sometimes/usually none).
On the face of it, it would seem that Daryl Murphy was signed from Ipswich Town to be nothing more than back up for this season, possibly to be sold on in the summer if Newcastle do win promotion. For me though, the story isn’t as simple as that.
Daryl clearly gained a bit of confidence from signing for the Toon, as he headed in his first ever International goal away against Mitrovic’ Serbia to earn a crucial point for his country. However, the Irishman’s only football at club level this season has been in the EFL Cup victory over Wolves.
It has to be said too, that he had a very impressive game. He held the ball up well and brought the supporting attackers into play. Fantastic evidence of the squad’s strength in depth when you consider he is yet to get a chance in the Championship.
Speaking of international football, Mitrovic may have came off worst in that earlier battle with Murphy, but he took a massive step towards winning the war in scoring twice for his country in a 3-2 win over Austria. The first was a cool left footed finish and the second a well-timed header. More of this in black and white stripes this season would be useful!
Just to help Rafa out a little, let’s have a look at the pros and cons for starting either man.
Youth – Seems an obvious one but it needs to be said. Mitrovic is 22, while Murphy is 33. If we’re looking ahead to the future, then giving Mitro time to grow as a player seems like a no-brainer. He’s not going to get better by being sat on the bench. If it does suddenly click for him, then he could be our main striker for years to come.
Goals record – While Murphy has had a much longer career, Mitro certainly has the more impressive goal record. For both Partizan and Anderlecht his record was about 1 in 2, which is really good for his age. Plus, this season he’s started one Championship game and scored in a 0-6 win. Not bad, really.
Intensity – A blessing and a curse really. He’s clearly an emotional young bloke and in some games that will definitely help us out. For example, recently he came off the bench against Norwich with the score at 2-3 and it did help change the game towards the end. Target men have to be imposing, and if he can keep his temper in check, Mitrovic certainly can be.
Unreliable – Remember that point on intensity? Yeah, he doesn’t half take it too far sometimes. Two red cards last season meant we were without him for the first four games of this season, which proved costly as the lads lost to Fulham and Huddersfield. He needs to make sure he stays within the laws of the game in future.
Finishing – Though he has got a good scoring record, last season he had an annoying tendency to miss sitters. A header against Everton on Boxing Day in particular sticks out as it was right in front of me but there were countless others too. They proved costly in the end!
Experience – He’s been around the block more than once. Having played for a number of clubs in England and Scotland, he knows what it takes to succeed as a lone frontman. In some cases, experience does carry a side through tough games that you just have to grind out, and there are a lot of those in The Championship.
Championship success – Before signing for Newcastle, Murphy had spent 5 years at Ipswich Town where he did eventually find his groove. Scoring 27 goals in the 2014/15 season speaks for itself really. He may have only got 10 last year but it’s clear at this level he knows where the net is.
Leadership – Old heads make good leaders and when you’re looking to scratch and claw your way out of this division, leaders are a very useful thing to have. If we’re struggling away at Preston, it’ll take calm minds to maybe get us a 1-0 win. One thing I’m certain of is that Murphy has better game management skills than his young Serbian rival.
No longevity – Maybe Daryl was only bought for one season of football, only Rafa will know for sure. If we are promoted, there will be a big question mark on whether or not he can cut it at Premier League level when he’s 34 years of age. If the answer to that is no, then I’m sure there won’t be a lack of takers back at Championship level. The problem with starting Murphy regularly would be the risk of Mitro stagnating and turning into wasted potential.
Is he past it? – As previously mentioned, Murphy scored 10 goals last season for Ipswich, which was way down from 27 the year before. Due to his age, you have to ask whether or not his best days are behind him. I have faith that he can still score important goals in black and white, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t doubt there.
I would say it’s a win for Mitrovic.
Though the obvious elephant in the room is the fact that Benitez himself seems to prefer Dwight Gayle as a loan striker right now, I do think the need for a traditional target man will come through for most of the season.