The only Newcastle signing in the final 34 days of the transfer window, fair to say that the arrival of Joselu didn’t exactly prompt any street parties on Tyneside.
Yet 188 Premier League minutes later for the Magpies and I’m already seeing the Spaniard as a very positive part of this season’s efforts towards survival and hopefully a little bit more than that.
It isn’t that Joselu has looked a world beater, more the good, honest, good quality Premier League level experienced striker we were looking for.
Fair enough, his previous Premier League experience may only amount to 10 starts and 12 appearances off the bench for Stoke City but he has looked totally at ease in these past three matches, playing in the English top tier.
I think it is also now very obvious why Rafa Benitez brought the former Real Madrid striker in.
Once Rafa realised that there would be no final month of the transfer window reprieve for his ambitions, the United clearly had to find somebody at a certain price who could come in and play instantly and who was better than Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Rafa Benitez had shown that even in the Championship he didn’t rate the Serbian (11 starts last season) and with Dwight Gayle’s dodgy confidence/hamstrings, another forward was desperately needed – especially with Daryl Murphy having been sacrificed/sold on early in the window.
Having watched Joselu in his two starts and cameo at Huddersfield, I have already seen enough.
I know I am now at risk of a Geordie Fatwa being placed on my head by Mitro’s barmy army of supporters but…is Mitrovic actually better than Joselu at anything?
May as well get the glaringly obvious out of the way first.
Joselu is no Usain Bolt but clearly can run rings around Aleksandar Mitrovic, whose lack of pace is always going to be a problem in the Premier League.
Holding the ball up
This part of his game has actually improved but for Mitro it still is a case of the ball being perfectly played to him and no defender nipping in front before it even gets to him – with zero chance of the former Anderlecht striker turning a poor/average ball into a good one, by getting there ahead of his marker. Joselu on the other hand has shown he is a willing runner and able to get on the end of hopeful balls forward, holding it up until teammates arrive on the scene.
As well as his goal against West Ham, Joselu has looked a constant threat, getting a number of efforts on target. I can see him easily beating his totals of five for Deportivo and four for Stoke in the past two seasons, the Spaniard only starting 19 league matches in that 24 month period.
When it comes to shooting, Mitrovic has had his moments, but is more Shola than Shearer in terms of striking the ball. Never going to be a natural finisher in my opinion.
Movement in the box
Another easy one to call. As well as his excellent header that produced a world class Fabianski save, Joselu has shown good all round awareness inside the box. In contrast, Mitrovic has little desire to ever get to a ball first when delivered into the box, meaning delivery has to be pinpoint before it has any chance of turning into an opportunity for Newcastle’s number 45.
For a big bloke, this is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Mitro’s game. He very rarely wins a header in general play and in the penalty area, as mentioned above, it needs to be a perfect cross for him to get on the end of.
As for Joselu, I would say on the evidence so far that he wins something like 75% of headers in open play and is a threat in the box as well in the air, definitely a major strength in his game.
Link up play
Once again, Joselu looks to have very good awareness, releasing the ball at the right times and of course that decent movement meaning he can then get in good positions as the team build attacks. Already showing good inter-passing with teammates.
Again with Mitrovic, his (lack of) movement and often poor touch, invariably leads to moves breaking down, or never getting started.
What can you say?!!
In conclusion, I still can’t find any aspect of play where Mitrovic looks superior to Joselu.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that Mitrovic has nothing to offer but I do feel that everything has to fall right and the service to him totally tailored to his needs, before you get anything decent out of the 22 year old. In contrast, Joselu looks a bit of a decent all round player as well as being very good in the air, someone who will also put in the graft and selfless work that Dwight Gayle also does so well, when fully wound up.
I think Joselu will be first choice for most games in the short to medium term and this will also give Dwight Gayle the chance to hopefully play himself back into form, rather than having that pressure/expectation of being the main supplier of goals.
As for Mitrovic, when he returns from his latest daft suspension, he will be a definite third choice up front. Hopefully there is a better player to be found with him than we have seen so far but he has to find that improvement within himself, rather than waiting for his teammates to give him what he ideally wants/needs.
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