Connect in the back of the net

After netting for Serbia again this week, Aleksandar Mitrovic must be wondering what more he needs to do to warrant a start for his club.

Following Newcastle’s 1-0 loss to Bournemouth, many fans were calling for ‘Mitro’ to be summoned from the bench, although manager Rafa Benitez did not conform to the wishes of the crowd.

To stir the matter up more, the Striker made it four goals in six games this season for both club and country and is in fine form for Serbia especially, leaving the Magpies faithful even more desperate to see the passionate forward stake a claim in the starting XI for Newcastle.

Benitez has opted for Joselu to start up front for the majority of the season. Although he has scored more goals than Mitrovic (two to Mitro’s one), many fans believe the Serbian offers more of a presence than the Spaniard and that he can be lethal if United play to his strengths. Rafa meanwhile, favours work rate above all and deems Joselu a better fit for his preferred system.

One aspect the Geordies cannot argue with is the Serbian’s lack of discipline at times, which is very possibly the reason Rafa has not favoured him this season. Benitez likes to keep his team tight and well-organised and if a player is not pulling his weight then they face the consequences of dropping out of the starting XI.

Rafa demonstrated this last season with defenders Chancel Mbemba and Jamaal Lascelles by omitting them from the subsequent match following poor performances; highlighting the ruthlessness of the Magpies’ gaffer. Mitrovic served a suspension following an apparent elbow during the 3-0 win over West Ham in August and has not featured since, to the dismay of many fans.

A similar situation occurred with midfielder Jonjo Shelvey after his red card in the opening day defeat against Spurs. Shelvey’s absence from the squad was not as lengthy as Mitrovic’s, although the Englishman himself only started again in the 1-1 draw against Liverpool in early October.

Hope has not been lost for the Serbian and his many admirers however, as Benitez opted for a 4-4-2 formation against Bournemouth; a change from his usual 4-2-3-1 with only one forward. As Newcastle failed to score in the match, and with Mitro’s fine form for Serbia, there is no doubt Rafa has a close eye on the striker.

When Mitrovic was suspended and did not play, United did perform well at times however. They went on a three-game winning streak in late August until mid-September, United showed that they can win with and without the fiery forward.

Ultimately the decision lies with Rafa. Club legend Mick Quinn spoke recently and stated that he would not start Mitrovic if Benitez did not see him fit to start, ie he trusts Rafa’s decision.

The Serbian’s opportunity will arrive soon and now is his time to step up and perform to the level of the £13m transfer fee paid two years ago.


Written by Dawud Arshad

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