Should Rafa Benitez recall Newcastle striker Aleksandar Mitrovic? A case for and against

Aleksandar Mitrovic has been out in the cold at Newcastle United in recent weeks.

Thursday, 2nd November 2017, 2:38 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 12:02 pm
Joselu and Aleksandar Mitrovic

Having appeared to work his way up the United pecking order at the start of the season, his indiscipline seems to have sent him back to third choice in Rafa Benitez's eyes.

The below par show from strike choice Joselu at Burnley has many people wondering whether it might be time to give the big Serb a shot leading the Magpies' line.

Joselu and Aleksandar Mitrovic

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Our NUFC writers Miles Starforth and Liam Kennedy are in different camps when it comes to Mitrovic. Here's there cases for and against his recall...

Liam Kennedy: A case for Mitrovic

The worst kept secret at Newcastle is that Rafa Benitez is no fan of Mitrovic.

The manager does not trust the Serbian international to one, follow direction, two, maintain his discipline. It is clear as day.

Joselu and Aleksandar Mitrovic

Now I have 100% faith in a manager as skilled, studious and decorated as Benitez, and in some ways calling for Mitrovic to start feels a touch disrespectful to a boss of his calibre, but my feeling is that could Mitro really be any worse than Joselu, on current form?

The Spanish forward, after a reasonably positive start to life on Tyneside, has seen his performances drop off a cliff of late.

In his first forays in black and white he looked to bring players into the action, got on the end of things and seemed to be sparking a decent understanding with Ayoze Perez.

Burnley showed just how far both have come off the boil. With the ball they were woeful.

Now I do not think Joselu is as bad a player as his Turf Moor show, a theory applies for Perez, too, but I just feel it could be time for a freshening up in the forward areas.

Another thing that must also be noted is that Mitrovic, who'd have been sold in the summer, or last January, if Rafa had his way, is yet to really pull up any trees at United.

Yes, he looks the real deal on international duty but when it comes to domestic football, he often looks a yard off the pace and his finishing is definitely in need of some serious work. Bar fleeting glances in his first season the 23-year-old has been largely disappointing, despite what the very vocal minority on social media and at SJP would have you believe.

All that said, having given Joselu a fair crack of the whip as a central striker, surely the Serb has to be worth a go at some point, especially when Dwight Gayle hasn't even managed to get close to disproving those who always feared he was not fit for purpose in the Premier League.

Miles Starforth: A case against Mitrovic

Sorry, but Gayle's next in line at Newcastle United.

There have been calls for a change up front against Bournemouth.

And some of those calls have been for Mitrovic, who has played just 30 minutes of Premier League football this season.

Mitrovic managed to get himself banned for three games in that half an hour.

Joselu – who has started all but two of the club's 10 league games – didn't have a good game on Monday.

Nothing stuck up front on a night when Newcastle created very little. But Joselu wasn't alone. Too many players had off-nights.

The striker, a cheap summer acquisition from Stoke City, probably exceeded low expectations in his first few games.

And he'd been doing the basics well enough until United's visit to Turf Moor. Joselu's worked hard, won headers, held the ball up, brought others into play – and scored two goals.

Crucially, both of those goals have come at St James's Park.

So is it time for a change up front? I'd say no, or at least not yet. Newcastle have taken 10 points from the four home games Joselu has started.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

And, for me, Gayle's next in line when the time comes. The striker – who scored 23 Championship goals last season – has had a forgettable and injury-interrupted campaign so far.

But manager Benitez says Gayle is fit and ready for an opportunity. His pace can hurt teams at St James's Park. And he's a finisher at any level.

Gayle won't get as many chances this season as he did last, but he can score goals at this level. He just needs time on the pitch. Mitrovic's also waiting for a chance.

Benitez, it seems, doesn't entirely trust Mitrovic, who was hit with a retrospective ban for elbowing West Ham United's Manuel Lanzini in late August. And that's understandable.

However, the striker can be a handful without stepping over the line – and he can score at this level.

That said, Mitrovic, for me, is behind Joselu and Gayle in the pecking order.