The subject of which Newcastle striker should start, comes up pretty much every match.
Each passing week sees online polls show an ever growing support for Aleksandar Mitrovic, with the opposite for Joselu.
Last time out, Rafa Benitez surprised us all. He didn’t go really radical and select Mitrovic but the United boss did choose two strikers to play together.
It very nearly came off as Newcastle were excellent for the first 30 minutes against Bournemouth and decent for the remainder of the half, both Joselu and Gayle had chances to put Newcastle into the lead but it didn’t quite happen, though Gayle was wrongly adjudged offside when he did hit the back of the net.
Last season the pre-match fan polls showed overwhelming support for Mitrovic and Gayle to start every game together but it never happened. Even after combining late on (Mitro off the bench) to turn defeat into victory against Norwich, Rafa refused to give it a try from the start.
Gayle did enough to suggest he is finding his feet at last this season and maybe he will also discover where he left his shooting boots as well soon – but what about Mitrovic?
The thing is, I do get why Rafa Benitez doesn’t pick the former Anderlecht man, he needs/wants his main striker to run and run to ensure Newcastle defend from the very front, never in a million years will/can Mitro do that.
I’ve kind of gone along with that this season, that Joselu was the right choice because he will work and work, hassle the defenders continuously, though you have to at the same time accept he is very unlikely to score the goals we are desperately short of.
I don’t think this any longer though.
Against Bournemouth, Joselu had at least a couple of very good opportunities and you could just sense the panic. He was shocking.
For all Mitro’s other faults, I think we need a striker on the pitch with a knack for scoring goals, rather than one who has a knack for…not scoring them.
Whilst there were a few more chances created in that last league match, generally Newcastle are struggling to create many in most matches. This makes it even more vital that when the rare opportunities do come along, Newcastle have the best equipped people on the pitch to take advantage.
I wouldn’t care but in his very limited involvement this season, Mitrovic has actually looked relatively sharp.
In his 135 minutes of action for Newcastle, he has also scored twice, stylishly rounding Joe Hart to score, as well as a very decent strike against Forest in the League Cup. Add to that hes scored another couple for Serbia as well since this season kicked off.
In contrast, Joselu had a pretty much open goal against West Ham and almost messed up as he seemed to fall over and thankfully the ball still rolled into the net. Whilst his other goal saw him sent clear against Liverpool and he did totally mess this one up as the Liverpool defender caught him as he dithered and didn’t get a shot away, only for Matip to kick the ball off Joselu and baffle Mignolet in the visiting goal.
Since signing on at St James Park in July 2015, Aleksandar Mitrovic has managed 27 goals for club and country in 59 starts plus 33 as a sub. Say what you like about him but that is a pretty decent effort, especially when most of the time he hasn’t had a run of games to get him into the flow of it.
Since July 2015 he has played exactly 5,400 minutes of football, a goal every 200 minutes, which averages at a goal every other game just about.
If he wants a physical presence on the pitch up front, then Rafa surely has to now go with Mitro and not Joselu, at least until the January window.
It has reached the point where he/we are getting so little out of Joselu, that the Serbian hitman surely can’t make things any worse.
Then who knows, you may have also the added benefit of Joselu finding a bit more form/confidence as an impact sub.
Rafa showed that he is willing to bend/change his ideas with the two up front last match, the next change of mind will hopefully be Mitrovic.
He isn’t the long-term answer but just maybe, he can prove to be the best short-term option Newcastle have.