Name: Aleksandar Mitrovic
Signed From: Anderlecht
Well, it seems as though Mike Ashley is determined to make good on his promises made on the Saturday prior to the final match of 2014-15:
“We have the club on very sound financial footing, so we are able to spend and punch above our weight thanks to the current financial situation the club finds itself in.” – Mike Ashley
On Friday it was made official that Newcastle had procured the services of much sought after Dutch midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum of PSV. The transfer fee was said to be £14.5m, third highest the club has every paid after Michael Owen and Alan Shearer. Interesting of note that the third highest transfer fee ever for the club is for a midfielder.
Yet amongst all the news of a done deal, there were rumours of another player heading into Tyneside. The agent of Serbian forward Aleksandar Mitrovic, of Belgian league club Anderlecht, was telling anyone who would listen that his client was in negotiations with Newcastle and that a deal could be done “within hours”. There were also conflicting reports that the player’s father was holding out hope for another club to make a bid; no doubt hoping to increase the bulge in the wallet of all three. However, on Monday it was announced that Mitrovic had passed his medical and joined the Tyneside club.
With the £12m deal now complete what exactly are Newcastle getting? Do they need another traditional centre forward, or someone that can bring something different to the table?
Not being an expert on Belgian league football, (or any football for that matter), I’ve scoured the Internet for articles and statistics on the 20 year old. At 1.89 meters he can certainly be an imposing figure in the opposition’s box, using all of his 180lbs to push around those defending him. But is that enough for a league that partially prides itself on its physicality?
We can look to his performance in last seasons Champions League and Europa League matches to get a better grasp of how he can do against more talented clubs. The Serbian youngster scored against Arsenal, Dortmund and Dinamo Moscow and assisted with one other goal against the London club. All of this came in away matches for Anderlecht, so he does not seem to be easily intimidated, very important when visiting clubs the like of Manchester City, Chelsea, etc.
Above, I thought important to include for clarity a comparison of the Newcastle target against two similar players. One has also been rumoured to be on Ashley’s radar, Bas Dost, while the other is a Liverpool owned forward who was loaned back to his former club Lille last season. Of course the closest comparison is Mitrovic’s Champions League performance with the other two players Europa League stats.
Whilst Bas Dost is 6 years the others senior, his results are similar to their European matches last year. Numbers can be tricky though, and it is important to remember while Origi scored 1 goal in 5 matches, Mitrovic and Dost only scored two, respectively. One stat I always find key is shot accuracy, as an old ice hockey adage goes, “You don’t score on 100% of the shots you don’t get on net…” That is to say wild, erratic shots do nothing, but a rebound or ricochet off of the keepers gloves can result in something. One area the Serbian centre forward sorely lacks in is shooting accuracy. While taking 13 shots he was only accurate with half; meanwhile both Dost and Origi took less shots but were far more accurate. If there is a plus in those numbers, it is that both goals for Mitrovic were headed goals, an area Newcastle lack in.
In the end the forward seems to offer something different from the current forwards on the Magpie’s roster. Neither Ayoze nor Cisse are great challengers in the air and the one who should be, Emmanuel Riviere standing at nearly 6′, doesn’t seem to enjoy an aerial challenge in the slightest.
Mitrovic’s success of course also can be partially determined by where and when he is played by new manager of the club Steve McClaren. With what seems to be four centre forwards at the club does he run out a true 4-4-2 or go with the ever chic 4-2-3-1? The roster certainly seems to hold enough midfielders to fill the centre of the pitch, but it’s the wide areas that seem thin. Baring more offensive signings, here are a couple of potential line-ups come opening day of the Premier League season:
WILL MITROVIC HAVE A BIG IMPACT THIS SEASON?
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