Aleksandar Mitrovic is a bit of an enigma. Undoubtedly talented and clearly passionate, he can delight and frustrate fans in almost equal measure.
Despite having scored 9 Premier League goals for a relegated side last season, Mitrovic has found himself second choice in Benitez’s team since the arrival of Dwight Gayle from Crystal Palace.
Benitez, perhaps to keep Mitrovic happy, has repeatedly told the press that he finds precious little to separate him and Gayle in training; however, Gayle’s better movement and temperament have seen him used as the first pick. Gayle, having been handed the coveted no.9 shirt and subsequently scoring 21 goals in 28 Championship appearances has clearly shown himself to be the better option. Mitrovic has scored 6 goals and 3 assists this season from 23 appearances.
Despite chants of “Mitro’s on fire” having scored 4 goals in 2 games against Preston, a few rather lazy appearances from Mitrovic this season since then, have not gone unnoticed by sections of the usually supportive Newcastle followers. Patience is wearing thin now and despite saying he wants to stay at SJP forever, his future opportunities under ‘Rafa, the Gaffer’ may well be thin on the ground.
Who else can Newcastle call on? Ayoze Perez can do a job centrally when required, Daryl Murphy has done a sterling job when called upon and there is still the potential of Adam Armstrong to think about following his loan spell with Barnsley.
So, if Mitro left, is it worth replacing him at all? The clear answer is yes. Not only does Newcastle’s current back-up in the centre-forward position look light on quality for the Premier League, but they would also miss Mitrovic’s presence up front. It is maybe a tad unfair to keep a player like him in reserve forever, but using a ‘big man’ or a hustle and bustle type of player from the bench has been known to change games.
The big man is back in a big way in the Premier League. Relative successes for Christian Benteke, Swansea’s Fernando Llorente, former Toon star Andy Carroll and even Peter Crouch being back among the goals recently has proven that it’s OK to put crosses in once again! No longer do Premier League teams see passing the ball to death and trying to walk it in as their only route to goal.
The need for a different type of player to Dwight Gayle should be at the forefront of Newcastle’s mind in the close season. A strong and a willing hold-up player who is good in the air could be a vital tool and with Mitrovic potentially no longer in the squad, a replacement is not just desirable, it’s absolutely necessary.