With seven goals in his last five games, Aleksandar Mitrovic has been a massive hit at Fulham.
Thankfully, the Serbian’s loan move has also coincided with improved Newcastle form.
Newcastle, with the help of their own loan signings (Dubravka and Kenedy, Slimani yet to be sighted…) have played five times since the transfer window ended and with two wins and two draws, have improved to 13th place and five points clear of relegation.
Despite the Newcastle results, it hasn’t stopped media and some supporters still questioning the wisdom of Rafa Benitez’ decision, taking as proof that his Fulham form shows that loaning Mitrovic out is a mistake.
With not a single start this season and only 11 in the Championship last campaign, Rafa has made it clear Mitrovic doesn’t fit his idea of what he wants up front.
However, even when Mitro recently said Fulham played a better style of attacking football than Newcastle, the United boss didn’t bite (see below), just saying that statistics and ending up as champions last season tells everybody the reality.
Interesting then to see somebody being a little less diplomatic than Rafa Benitez, Ian Ladyman of The Mail being pretty savage with regard to Aleksandar Mitrovic.
The respected journalist declaring: ‘Those who say Rafa Benitez missed a trick by not using him at Newcastle are wrong. Benitez thinks that Mitrovic is a Championship striker and is being proved exactly right.’
Whilst I’m not totally convinced by Mitro’s credentials at the top level, I don’t think I agree either with the Journo’s point.
Rafa hardly played the striker in the Championship so it hardly suggests that the manager wants to play him at all, whatever the division.
Closer to the point is that I think Rafa demands workrate above all else and doesn’t appear to believe that Mitrovic was able/willing to do that in the lone striker role, although with Fulham fans raving about the striker’s running and effort as well as goals, maybe Mitro is now determined to prove the Newcastle boss wrong.
Maybe this is also the case with Jonjo Shelvey, whereas he could coast through the Championship without really breaking sweat due to his passing ability, possibly only in these recent games has the penny dropped that to really succeed in the Premier League, and in Rafa’s eyes, he has to do an awful lot more on the pitch than he had been doing.
A win/win for Rafa Benitez and both Shelvey AND Mitrovic at the moment, an interesting summer ahead when decisions have to be made on who Rafa Benitez buys and sells.
Aleksandar Mitrovic lines up for Fulham today (Saturday) at home to QPR with a 12.30pm kick-off, as always Newcastle fans (and Rafa?) will be keeping an eye on how he gets on.
Ian Ladyman writing in The Mail:
“The Serbian has scored seven goals in five games on loan at Fulham as the London club make a strong dart towards promotion.
“But those who say Rafa Benitez missed a trick by not using him at Newcastle are wrong.
“Benitez thinks that Mitrovic is a Championship striker and is being proved exactly right.”
Rafa Benitez – 12 March 2018:
“There are two ways to analyse this.
“One is – Mitrovic is scoring goals in the Championship.
“It’s good news for him and us.
“Two – Mitrovic is playing before the World Cup and he is our player.
“We then have to discuss his future in May.
“In May we will then see, and if he is doing well, then fine no problem.
“It is not about style…we were the best team in the Championship and had an offensive style.
“We scored 85 and conceded 40. We were the best team bar none.
“We had more shots on target than anyone else and we were second on crosses.
“So everything was there in place.
“We were an attacking team and Dwight Gayle got 23 goals, even with two months out injured.
“Nobody can complain about our attacking style, as we had Gayle, Ritchie and Atsu.
“You can see the numbers.”
Rafa Benitez asked about Aleksandar Mitrovic at start of February after the striker joined Fulham on loan:
“My relationship with him (Aleksandar Mitrovic) is fine.
“He is a nice lad.
“You pick your team and I don’t need to worry about my ego – I have won trophies around the world and I don’t need to be worried about my ego.
“My priority to win games and you pick your team thinking…’This is the best team for me’.
“It was clear that he wanted, and needed, to play games.
“Now he has an opportunity.
“Hopefully he will score 20 or 25 goals.
“We will be happy with that.
“He would have more value.
“He will come here and say…‘I am a new player and you have to trust me because I have scored 25 goals.’
“Fine, no problem.”