Three reasons why Aleksandar Mitrovic will become a Newcastle cult hero
Jake Evans assesses the potential impact of Aleksandar Mitrovic at Newcastle United this season
If new signing Aleksandar Mitrovic gets regular game time under Steve McClaren, he has all the attributes to become a cult hero at Newcastle United for many seasons to come.
Finishing and goals
The Serbian striker is a goal-poacher; his positioning and reactions are excellent. He scored 27 goals in 50 matches for Anderlecht last season at the age of 20. The majority of his goals are toe-pokes and tap-ins from inside the box, as he redirects a scuffed shot or finishes into an empty net following a good save from the goalkeeper. He has an extremely powerful strike but will rarely try his luck from distance as he prefers to get the ball down and play wide before anticipating a cross. This is likely due to his heading ability. As Arsenal fans know all too well, Mitrovic is a serious aerial threat and will out-jump the majority of his opponents. He comfortably beat 6’6 Per Mertesacker to the ball for his headed equaliser against the Gunners in last season’s Champions’ League, and won 2.4 aerial duels per match during the competition on average.
Mitrovic loves to play with his back to goal and often comes short to receive the ball from midfield. His first touch is excellent and usually allows him to shield the ball from opposition defenders. At Anderlecht, he would regularly pass the ball to a team-mate with a first-touch chest-pass from a goal-kick, much to the delight of the fans. He is similar to Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud; he is a big, strong target-man who loves to add intricate flicks and delicate backheels to his hold-up play and will often set up his team-mates for a strike at goal.
Temperament and personality
Mitrovic is a character to say the least. He is the kind of player you would love to have on your team but would absolutely hate to play against; he is extremely physical and thrives on battling with centre-halves. The Belgian FA had to ban him retrospectively on several occasions last season for dangerous play, including an incident where he had elbowed an opponent in the jaw. Anderlecht coach Besnik Hasi had to keep a particularly close eye on Mitrovic last season and made him watch Under-21 matches instead of going out with friends. He had some problems with weight following international duty with Serbia and was put on a strict diet and training regime. As a result, his work-rate has improved significantly and he knows that he cannot afford to be lazy as a lone striker. Hasi stated publicly that he was keen for Mitrovic to settle down with his girlfriend in a bid to curb his erratic behaviour, examples of which include a leopard print haircut and celebrating a goal against Borussia Dortmund with a sexually explicit gesture.
Newcastle fans love their cult heroes; the Toon Army have always had a soft-spot for players like Paul Gascoigne, Temuri Ketsbaia and Laurent Robert. Mitrovic fits the mould perfectly.