Rafa Benitez has hit back at Aleksandar Mitrovic’s suggestion that Newcastle’s ‘tactical’ style of play in our Championship campaign didn’t suit him, politely explaining why he does not buy this – also revealing that his future with NUFC will be discussed in May.
‘Mitro’s on fire’ is a phrase that’s often been unjustified, but he really has been since arriving on loan at Fulham in January. Not only did he score two in Fulham’s their midweek win over Sheffield United, he backed that up with another brace in their 2-1 win over Preston on Saturday.
The Serbian has been full of praise for Fulham’s attacking football, suggesting they play to his strengths more than Benitez’s ‘tactical’ NUFC did in the 2016/17 season.
Rafa has responded to this in emphatic fashion, having the following to say about the striker’s recent comments:
“It’s not about style. We were the best team in the Championship and had an offensive style.
“We scored 85 and conceded 40. We were the best team bar none.
“We had more shots on target than anyone and we were second on crosses.
“So everything was there in place.
“We were an attacking team. We had one key player – and that Dwight Gayle. He got 23 goals even with two months out injured. Even Daryl Murphy scored six goals.
“Nobody can complain about our attacking style as we had Gayle, Ritchie and Atsu. You can see the numbers.”
Hard to argue with that. Fulham may play the best football, but in terms of crosses into the box and goals scored, we were the top dogs – suggesting Mitrovic should have thrived far more than he did.
The argument will be that he wasn’t given enough games, but, as Rafa points out in a subtle dig at the Serbian, Gayle was our ‘key player’. Why would he start Mitro over a striker who was scoring for fun every week?
Rafa then moved onto Mitrovic’s future, stating that it’s a good thing for him and NUFC that he is scoring goals, with discussions set to take place in May when he returns to Tyneside:
“There are two ways to analyse this.
“One is Mitrovic is scoring goals in the Championship (not the Premier League). But it’s good news for him and us.
“Two, he is playing before the World Cup and he is our player.
“We then have to discuss his future in May.
“In May we will see and if he is doing well, fine no problem.”
What would you do with him in the summer folks?
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— Channel 5 Sport (@Channel5Sport) March 10, 2018