Aleksandar Mitrovic Newcastle United claims – Any truth in them?
Aleksandar Mitrovic arrived at St James’ Park in July 2015.
The 20 year old childhood Newcastle United fan moving from Anderlecht to play for ‘his’ club, what could possibly go wrong?
In his first Premier League season, Aleksandar Mitrovic scored a respectable but not great nine goals in thirty four PL appearances (twenty two starts and twelve as a sub) but the big story of that season was relegation for Newcastle United.
Yet another ‘cunning’ Mike Ashley plan failing, after repeatedly failing to allow proper investment in the squad. Ashley suddenly in summer 2015 allowing relatively (by his standards anyway) big spending BUT that big money (£50m+) all spent on young overseas players, none of who had played in the Premier League before. As well as some £14m spent on a 20 year old Mitro, 22 year olds Chancel Mbemba and Florian Thauvin were brought in, plus a then 24 year old Gini Wijnaldum. One for the future Ivan Toney was also signed that window, £500,000 from Northampton.
Spending biggish money at last BUT all of it on young players who had only played in weaker overseas leagues AND appointing a hopeless stooge manager in Steve McClaren (just sacked by Championship club Derby), yet another chaotic episode under Mike Ashley.
The four signings contributed in that relegation season to varying degrees but of the quartet, only Chancel Mbemba ever started another Premier League match for Newcastle after that relegation campaign, starting seven PL games for Newcastle in teh 2017/18 season.
Rafa Benitez had replaced the hopeless McClaren in March 2016 and after a massive rebuilding and turnover of players in summer 2016 after relegation, it became clear that Rafa didn’t see Aleksandar Mitrovic as his kind of centre-forward.
Only 11 Championship starts (and 14 sub appearances) for Mitro in the promotion season, scoring four goals. Dwight Gayle first choice and even Daryl Murphy preferred to Aleksandar Mitrovic at times.
After promotion, Rafa Benitez ended up totally sidelining the Serbian striker, Rafa Benitez using the likes of Gayle, Perez and £5m Stoke reserve signing Joselu. Mitro playing only 89 minutes in six sub appearances in the first half of that 2017/18 season, before then moving to Fulham on loan in January 2018. The Newcastle United fan would never play for ‘his’ club ever again,
Aleksandar Mitrovic excelling in the Championship and scoring 12 goals from 18 starts to help Fulham to promotion, the West London club then paying £22m (with also a reported £5m in potential future add-ons) in July 2018 to make the deal permanent ahead of their Premier League challenge.
Fast forward now swiftly to the present day and many people, including some Newcastle United fans, are now declaring it as a massive mistake for Rafa Benitez / NUFC to have let this goalscoring striker go. Many of those critics linking letting Mitro go with Ivan Toney, Rafa supposedly making two catastrophic errors of judgement according to some.
So, the question is, these Aleksandar Mitrovic Newcastle United claims – Any truth in them?
Well, leaving aside Ivan Toney and concentrating just on Aleksandar Mitrovic, fair to say that back in the day there was a real split amongst NUFC fans about Mitro and those on either side of the fence, probably haven’t changed their views.
To help decide this Aleksandar Mitrovic debate, this has been his record at Fulham in the league:
2017/18 season – 12 goals in 20 Championship games (18 starts and 2 sub appearances)
2018/19 season – 11 goals in 37 Premier League games (37 starts and 0 sub appearances)
2019/20 season – 26 goals in 41 Championship games (40 starts and 1 sub appearance)
2020/21 season – 3 goals in 27 Premier League games (13 starts and 14 sub appearances)
2021/22 season – 43 goals in 44 Championship games (44 starts and 0 sub appearances)
2012/23 season – 6 goals in 7 Premier League games (7 starts and 0 sub appearances)
What I would say for starters, is that this was no way a massive Rafa Benitez blunder, in my opinion. If this was the case, then surely top clubs would have pounced in recent years, especially the times when Fulham have been relegated.
It is also impossible not to compare his record for Fulham in the Premier League and Championship.
With 21 goals in 71 Premier League appearances for the Craven Cottage club.
Whilst 81 goals in 105 Championship appearances with Fulham.
Now aged 28, is Aleksandar Mitrovic a bit of a flat track bully, or simply somebody who has been unlucky to play for poor / struggling teams / clubs when he has played in the Premier League?
I think maybe there is some truth in both of these claims BUT the biggest truth is something totally different.
Aleksandar Mitrovic has to have a team that is set up to play to his strengths and unlike most modern day centre-forwards, Mitro isn’t one who will defend from the front and run all day. Instead his strengths are to link up play, hold the ball up, be a target man, then most importantly, get on the end of a steady flow of balls into the box from both wings.
Zero surprise that he has scored so many goals in the second tier, as far more chances are created with Fulham dominating games and also, defenders aren’t as good in the Championship.
Indeed, you can link this in with his international record.
Serbia are very much set up to play to his strengths and Aleksandar Mitrovic has a superb record.
Scoring a first half hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Sweden on Saturday, Mitro has now scored 49 goals in 75 appearances for his national side. A great supply of crosses from, both flanks and often playing weaker opposition in internationals, it does to a large extent mirror his Championship record. However, by any measurement those goals for Serbia are impressive.
I think this is a massive moment for Aleksandar Mitrovic and his chance to show he can really do it at the top level.
Fulham look to have potentially put together their best team since Mitro signed for them and he has six goals in seven Premier League starts this season. Whilst with Serbia, he has 13 goals in his last 12 competitive appearances.
We will never know what would / could have happened if Rafa Benitez had embraced Aleksandar Mitrovic and made him his main man back in the day.
However, I certainly don’t see how Mitro would have fitted in with Eddie Howe’s super fit all action high pressing Newcastle United of the present day, with the likes of Callum Wilson and Alexander Isak up front.
A lot of Newcastle fans will always keep eye out for how Aleksandar Mitrovic gets on in his career and good luck to him at Fulham this season, although not of course in six days time at Craven Cottage…
Serbia have a super tough group in Qatar in November, with Brazil, Cameroon and Switzerland making up the group. Gareth Southgate yet again incredibly lucky when you compare Serbia’s group with England having Wales, USA and Iran!
By the end of this season, Aleksandar Mitrovic, with both club and country, will have almost certainly given a final answer on whether he can show he has truly stepped up a level and is a top striker or not.
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