Has Mitro’s fire been rekindled?

Jack Stroudley 26th March 2021

Jack Stroudley asks whether our Serbian’s international double will kick-start his season – and our survival push.

Despite his lack of chances this season for Fulham, Aleksandar Mitrovic proved in midweek that defences should continue to be terrified of him. His two goals against the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday night proved to be the difference in a 3-2 victory for Serbia. The quality of the goals and performance, combined with the happiness on Mitro’s face beg the question: can he fire us to safety?

The tactical style

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It’s been clear throughout this season that Mitro is out of favour with Scott Parker, who’s opted for slightly more agile and quicker options in attack, rotating between Ivan Cavaleiro, Bobby Decordova-Reid, and most recently Josh Maja. 

Due to the 3-4-3 counter-attacking style Parker adapted to aid our survival hopes, it was quickly evident that this fast build-up play didn’t favour Aleksandar’s attributes, as it left him minimal time to hold the ball up and allow other players into the game. 

However in recent weeks with the formation switches to 4-3-3, and in some occasions 4-4-2, I believe the scene is set for Mitro to flourish, as these set-ups allow us to control play further up the pitch, which as we saw under Slavisa Jokanovic allowed him to thrive. 

Our other options

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As I say, there have been three other players who have been rotated throughout the season in order to try and find the solution to our evident lack of goals. 

Ivan Cavaleiro is the closest we have to a physical presence up top, bar Mitro, with his decent hold- up play and shielding on the ball, he’s also slightly more agile and is able to drive towards teams, despite sometimes lacking in the creative department. Ivan’s scored three goals this season.

Bobby Decordova-Reid is a more fluid option through the middle of the park and allows us to play with three attacking players who can easily rotate positions, with everyone having the freedom of the pitch (an homage to Kebano, Aluko and Ayite, if you will). Bobby is our top goal scorer this season with five league goals, but due to his current injury and Parker’s confidence in him playing in a variety of differing positions, I’m not sure we’ll see him play as the lone striker for the remainder of the season.

Finally there’s Josh Maja, who came in on loan from Bordeaux on deadline day seemed to be our final throw of the dice to try and find the goals to keep us up. After a promising start with two goals against Everton, things were looking promising for Josh. But he’s failed to net since. He’s shown signs of promise, in particular in the first half against Leeds, where he showed his ability to shield the ball from defenders and create chances for himself. If it wasn’t for Meslier he probably would have his third goal for the Whites.

How does Alek fit in?

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As mentioned previously the change to a more attacking formation should allow Mitro to express himself more on the pitch and provide us with the outlet we’ve been desperately missing. I think that his ability to hold the ball and drag other players into the game is something that we need to use to our advantage. 

Mitro showed away from home against Leeds this season that if you can provide him with the chances, he’ll take them. He’s a clinical top-level striker and showed against the Republic of Ireland that even if his confidence is a bit low and even if he isn’t fully match fit, he can still score goals.

Mitro is a striker who thrives on creating something out of nothing; we’ve seen him sniff out a chance time and time again for Fulham, something we’re in desperate need of. If Parker gives Mitro the freedom of the pitch and plays to his attributes, our Serbian striker could once again rekindle his flame – and his status as our talisman.