Fulham’s final deal of the window came through late on Wednesday night, with Newcastle United’s Serbian frontman Aleksandar Mitrović joining the Whites on loan to the end of the season. With a load of conjecture flying around about what Mitrović would bring to the team, and some nerves about his disciplinary record, Jack J Collins sat down with Kris Wallace, the brain behind the magnificent Gallowgate Shots and part of the All With Smiling Faces Podcast, to get his thoughts on the big man.
Aleksander Mitrovic, on the surface at least, has become a bit of a cult hero in Newcastle. Why?
That’s true in a way. Many fans would refer to Mitrovic as a Cult Hero on Tyneside, but it really does all depend on what side of the Mitro camp you fall on. The Serbian has split the fan base like no other in recent years (with the exception, perhaps of Hatem Ben Arfa).
Fans either absolutely love him or absolutely despise him—but the reason he’s perhaps taken on that “cult hero” tag is probably because he’s an absolute nutcase – the lad is as mad as a box of frogs, but most importantly for fans of a club as passionate as Newcastle, he wears his heart on his sleeve.
Obviously he’s a striker, but which systems suit Mitrovic? Jokanovic usually plays with one up top – has he been utilised as a lone frontman?
Mitro has been played in numerous systems and set ups – up top as a target man and alongside a more pacy striker. The one thing you’ll get from him is decent hold up and link play.
He’ll play with his back to goal a lot of the time hoping to win the ball and bring those around him into the attacking play, especially as a lone forward.
What are Mitrovic’s strongest, and weakest, attributes?
His strongest attribute has to be his pure physicality, he’ll win the ball the majority of the time, whether in the air or on the ground. He’s a strong lad who will easily hold off any tackle, and he’s rarely dispossessed by a defender when he’s holding them off.
In terms of a weakness – everyone knows that it’s his temperament. He’s plays the game on the edge of the law and his reputation in England now will always go against him when a referee is unsure of a decision.
He’ll win the ball strongly but fairly, but many of these challenges are now going against him just because of who he is and what he’s seen as.
Fulham’s two other strikers are Rui Fonte, a technically gifted, drop-deep interplay striker, and Aboubakar Kamara, who is a bit of a wrecking ball – have you seen much of Mitrovic with a striker beside him and what kind of striker has he worked best alongside?
Rafa has never rated Mitrovic, many would blame his lack of discipline for this and you can’t blame them for thinking so. He had very little chance playing alongside another striker at Newcastle, but if you want to get the best out of him then it’s worth looking back at his Anderlecht days.
If you can get the ball out wide and deliver an early cross into the box like that team did, there’s no doubt that he’ll thrive and score you goals.
Obviously, there’s been disciplinary issues with Mitrovic in the past, but word on the street is that he seems to have matured a little. Can you see this being an issue?
I don’t think you’ll ever extinguish the fire in his belly, he’s a passionate player. This does mean, however, that he can be his own worst enemy at times.
He’s already created a reputation for himself, he did so on his debut for Newcastle United – he’ll pick up bookings, and you’d be foolish not to expect that to continue.
There appears to have been some discontent at letting him go, which is obviously a good sign from a Fulham perspective – but Dwight Gayle and Murphy kept him out of the side for large portions of last year – do you think Mitrovic could set the Championship alight this time round?
Rafa didn’t value him, it’s as simple as that in terms of the reasons that he hasn’t had much game time in the last two seasons. It’s weird because he’d go off for international duty, play fantastically and score goals, and then he’d return back to England in form and full of confidence and he wouldn’t even make it on the pitch.
You need to take advantage of him when he’s on form—give him a run of games and see what he can produce for Fulham. He scored nine goals in his debut season in the Premier League, and that was coming in to a new league at 20/21 years old.
I would love to see him have an absolute blinder for the remainder of the season – if the management and the fans stick by him, hopefully he’ll do it this time around.
Slavisa Jokanovic is Serbian, and also from Partizan Belgrade, which was Mitrovic’s youth side – do you think his influence will help to really mould Mitrovic consistently into the striker that his potential suggests?
Fingers crossed that this is the case. Mitrovic is raw, an unfinished article – it’s worth remembering that he’s only 23 and is continually growing as a striker, but the home influence should help with that.
I have faith that he’ll come good and I really do wish him all the best at Fulham. I’d love nothing more for him to return to Tyneside a better player and be handed the fair chance up here that he deserves.