Newcastle United’s hopes of staying in the Premier League received a massive boost this midweek as they gained a vital point against Manchester City with a 1-1 draw at St James' Park. Newcastle could have even gone on to win, but for a lack of calmness in front of goal. One such player charged with scoring the goals that could still save the Magpies is Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Mitrovic was brought on in the 55th minute and failed to affect the scoreline. It says a lot about what his manager, Rafael Benitez thinks of his current form, as he started the match on the bench after costing the club £13 million, their fifth most expensive transfer ever.
The 6ft 2in striker has not quite lived up to the expectations of Newcastle fans, after struggling to nail down a place in the team and failure to lead the line. However, it would be incredibly harsh to blame all these problems on Mitrovic, as the entire team has been dismal for the majority of the campaign.
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Have the critics of the forward been justified though? Mitrovic has scored eight goals this season - not exactly an impressive feat. However, seven of the top ten highest scoring strikers play for teams in the top half of the table, with only Jermain Defoe, Odion Ighalo and Gylfi Sigurdsson defying this pattern. Therefore, it seems harsh to judge the striker’s tally when he plies his trade for a team flirting with relegation.
The Serbian also hasn’t been given the aid of a stable place in the team. He has played the full 90 minutes of games only 13 times this season as the squad has been shuffled and changed in a desperate attempt to avoid the drop into the Championship.
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One of his close rivals in the scoring charts is Troy Deeney, who has been involved for the full 90 minutes 31 times this season. It should be said that the Watford captain also has eight assists whereas Mitrovic has picked up just three.
Another thing to bear in mind is that Aleksandar Mitrovic is only 21-years-old. People seem to be forgetting he is still developing as a player and adjusting after his move to the Premier League.
A man who is going through the same transitional period is Anthony Martial. Martial himself is only 20-years-old and has netted eight times this term, but unlike Mitrovic, has the benefit of playing for one of the biggest clubs in England, Manchester United.
It could be argued that the Manchester club have only scored 40 goals, to Newcastle’s 35, but there is a certain higher expectation of players of at Old Trafford, especially ones with a price tag as large as £38.5 million.
There is also the fact that Martial has played 338 minutes more than the Serbian. Yet somehow Martial is considered one of the best youth talents in the world and Mitrovic is somewhat of a flop.
There have been other factors such as Steve McLaren’s lack of tactical clarity early in the campaign and the general lack of effort from the team. If Mitrovic stays in the top flight, there's a good chance he will surprise a lot of Premier League fans very quickly.