Aleksandar Mitrovic hasn’t had the best of seasons, Rafa Benitez choosing to use Dwight Gayle as a sole striker and with the buy from Palace proving to be top scorer in the Championship that has guaranteed a place on the bench for the Serbian.
In fact, Saturday saw Mitrovic make his fourth cup start of the season, the same number of first elevens he has made in the Championship.
Despite his lack of games, Newcastle’s number 45 has scored five goals in all competitions, though didn’t add to that total on Saturday…
I have to hold my hands up and say that I feel in a strange position on this one, as I am not the striker’s biggest fan but feel the need to defend him on this occasion.
My overall impression of Mitrovic is that too often he looks far too slow, even unfit, and his mobility is non-existent – making it very difficult for support players to get the ball to him and link play through the former Anderlecht forward. His touch is also often abysmal, whilst he also struggles to win headers in general play outside the box, despite his physical stature.
However, I actually was impressed by him on Saturday!
Yes he saw his penalty saved and yes he had three or four other decent chances BUT his general play was very good in my opinion.
His mobility was much much better, he was more involved in the game and making himself available, plus he looked a little bit slimmer than normal and had an extra yard of pace.
The keeper did make a brilliant save for the penalty and in defence of Mitrovic, it was him who made the penalty out of nothing with a very good run into the box with the ball.
His other chances were also down to his movement and link-up play, so yes he should have stuck at least one of the chances away but I thought there were the best signs for ages that Mitrovic could maybe have a more positive part to play in these final three months of the season.
He will never be a natural finisher but could still get goals based on this performance and contribute in other ways.
What he clearly shouldn’t be though is a scapegoat for the dismal 3-0 defeat to Oxford. Yes he deserves his share of the blame as do all players and indeed Rafa Benitez himself.
However, fans who weren’t there shouldn’t always believe the headlines, as lazy journalists are always going to go with the shortest and…laziest route to their story and attention grabbing headline, Mitrovic missing the penalty wasn’t the whole story of this match.
We had a thrown together defence who couldn’t defend set-pieces and a similarly thrown together midfield that gave Mitrovic precious little support for most of the match.
Speaking of which, probably the worst player on the pitch, yet again, was Ayoze Perez who was minimal help to the centre-forward and indeed the rest of the team.
I still don’t see any long-term future/use for Aleksandar Mitrovic at Newcastle United, especially if we are talking Premier League BUT after being there on Saturday my spirits were lifted a little by his all round play.
In this shorter-term of the next three months and 19 games, our Serbian striker could still have a significant part to play and do it well.