A run of scoring only 3 goals in 15 games was not what was expected of Serbian forward when he made his big money move to Newcastle United from Belgian side Anderlecht last summer. Add to this that he has been booked 3 times and sent off once, for a stamp on Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin, and it would show that the reported fee of around £13million was a hefty price to pay for an unproven then 20 year old. Recent weeks have begun to show, however, an upturn in the player’s performances to show that Mitrovic could be the man to score the goals that fire the Toon Army to safety.
When Mitrovic arrived on Tyneside there was a buzz around St James Park, as the fans started to hope that they could finally have found a striker to replace Demba Ba. After Ba’s departure to Chelsea, Newcastle have struggled to find a striker to regularly score goals for them in the Premier League. There was the brief visit from Loic Remy that offered much, but the Geordie soon learned that money outweighs game time as the Frenchman decided to warm the bench at Stamford Bridge than potentially becoming a legend at the North East club. Mitrovic, himself, stated that he knew the history of the club and was even reported as saying that he hoped to emulate the scoring ability of local legend Alan Shearer. This was music to the ears of the Newcastle faithful.
At previous clubs Anderlecht and Partizan Belgrade, Aleksandar Mitrovic became known for his power and ability to meet a cross into the penalty box effectively, as well as his skills of holding the ball up and drawing fouls from the opposition defenders. This was particularly effective when at Anderlecht when the Serbian scored 44 goals in 90 games in all competitions, winning a Belgian Pro League title as well as the Belgian Super Cup in 2014. During this period Mitrovic was supplied with quality crosses from midfielders such as Youri Tielemans, Dennis Praet and future West Ham United star Cheikhou Kouyaté.
In order to get the best out of his big money striker, Newcastle manager Steve McClaren must instruct his team to put more decent balls into the box for Mitrovic to attack. With his current tactic of playing without orthodox wingers, Mitrovic has currently been starved of any decent service from the wings. McClaren needs to find a way to include players like Florian Thauvin and Gabriel Obertan on a regular basis. Players who can deliver high quality crosses that 6ft 2in Mitrovic can attack. Although changing tactics could be detrimental to Newcastle’s other attacking midfielders like Moussa Sissoko and other summer signing Georginio Wijnaldum, surely the Magpies’ boss must be thinking about what is best for his whole team rather than a couple of his higher paid stars.
Mitrovic’s best qualities have been reminding fans of a time when all the strikers at the club were strong and able to battle against the best of defenders. Great strikers such as Shearer, Patrick Kluivert and Micky Quinn have graced the turf at St James Park but recently the club has opted for the more continental type of striker, who is small in stature and with a great burst of pace. Newcastle have these in abundance with McClaren able to call upon Papiss Cisse, Emmanuel Riviere and Ayoze Perez if that is needed. However these types of players seem to be confidence players and need a run of games in order to hit their stride, unlike Mitrovic who has shown he just needs that one chance in the penalty box in order to score for his side.
With the style of the Premier League looking perfect for a player of Mitrovic’s build and strength, it seems as though the current tactics must be changed in order to get the best of a striker, who has been averaging nearly one goal every two games for his previous clubs.
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