Islam Slimani IN, Aleksandar Mitrovic OUT – that was the big move from Newcastle United on deadline day yesterday. In the fallout from deadline day, I have seen quite a few of our own questioning why we’d bring in the out of favour Leicester striker when we already had a ‘similar’ style of player aleardy on our books in Aleksandar Mitrovic..
I heard some saying ‘I’d rather have Mitrovic’, ‘He couldn’t get in Leicester’s team’ or scoffing at the fact that we’ve loaned a striker struggling for minutes, just days after we were lead to believe we might break our club transfer record. Comments like these really baffled me yesterday:
Who in their right mind decided Mitrovic could be sold if we brought in a 29 year old, failed PL striker? Slimani – really?! Rather see Joselu upfront.
— Newcastle Stats (@NewcastleStats) January 31, 2018
So, I’m keen to address all these issues raised by NUFC fans I’ve seen venting on social media.
Now, let’s forget footballing ability for a second (although I firmly believe Slimani is better – as does Thierry Henry based on his comments on Sky yesterday) – the two are incomparable in terms of what they’ll offer for NUFC. Why? Because Mitrovic is clearly a player Benitez is reluctant to use (hence why the misfiring Joselu continues to get in ahead of him), where as Slimani is Rafa’s signing and a player he’s been tracking for some time it seems (see below tweet from North-East correspondent from the Telegraph).
Vaguely interesting point, but Slimani was the striker Benitez told us he wanted before the transfer window opened but didn’t think he could get him back then so he’ll be very happy with him signing today #nufc
— Luke Edwards (@LukeEdwardsTele) January 31, 2018
As much as Mitrovic is adored by some sections of NUFC fans and as much as I feel he’d have been a better option than Joselu this season, he and Rafa did not see eye to eye, therefore he was never going to be our saviour this season. Slimani comes in raring to go, a Rafa signing and a man who can actually come into the team and be that striker Benitez has been after ever since the summer.
Another thought – I saw fans disgruntled that we resorted to a loan signing when we had some reason to believe the club would bring in a club record signing up top. Now, we may not have secured Slimani on a permanent, but make no mistake about it, we’re borrowing a striker that would have definitely broke our transfer record if we’d signed him outright. He cost Leicester £29m almost 18 months ago and they were believed to want £20m for him if they were going to let him leave for good.
Don’t get me wrong, there’d be more of a buzz around our new striker signing if he’d have been our new record signing – something we’ve craved for years since Owen’s £16.5m arrival – however, don’t let a loan deal make you believe this is a shoddy signing.
We were making moves to sign Jorgensen not long ago – a deal that would have seen our record broken if we’d paid their £20m asking price – however, I for one am glad we didn’t. Slimani will take less time to settle and fits the mould as to what our team lacks more so than Jorgensen appears to. Some have been left frustrated that Slimani has arrived with a slight thigh injury, but someone like Jorgensen would’ve almost certainly taken more time to settle. Pay £20m for a Dutch League striker who’d have to acclimatise to the intensity and speed of English football or loan a striker with Premier League experience and a decent goal record whenever he starts (8 goals and 5 assists in 15 starts). It’s a no brainer for me.
Back to the Mitrovic / Slimani comparisons – this sums it up for me if you’re disgruntled about letting Mitrovic leave for a player you deem to be no better:
Things I don't get re. people preferring Mitro is that it's so clear that Rafa wasn't going to play him. So it seems so irrelevant to compare him to Slimani.
Comparing Slimani to Gayle/Joselu is what makes sense – and he's much better than both! Surely you agree with that?
— Black&WhiteBarmy (@BlackWhiteBarmy) January 31, 2018
Finally, from what I’ve seen of both over the past few years, I genuinely think Slimani has more to his game than Mitrovic – and it’s also worth pointing out that Thierry Henry said it was a ‘no brainer’ when asked if NUFC were right to get Slimani in and send Mitrovic out on deadline day.
He knows his stuff and spoke highly of the Algerian after admitting to following him for a ‘very long time’:
Thierry Henry on Slimani: "I've followed him for a very long time. He works hard, he's good in the air, he's quick. It's a good move for him and for Newcastle. It's a no brainer for me."
— Martin Hardy (@mhardysport) January 31, 2018
‘Works hard’, ‘good in the air’, ‘quick’ – isn’t this everything we want Mitrovic to be, but ultimately a list of traits he doesn’t really demonstrate enough? Mitrovic headed them in for fun at Anderlecht, as Slimani has done during his career, so it’ll be interesting to see how the latter does in comparison to the Serb given the similar sort of service he can expect to receive.
If you compare the stats in terms of goals per start then Slimani and Mitrovic’s Premier League record isn’t all that dissimilar, however there’s a much bigger picture in all of this.
Not only do I feel Slimani possesses more outstanding traits that Mitrovic (quicker, works harder and more dominant in the air), the crux of this matter is that Mitrovic was never in Rafa’s plans, so it’s a pointless comparison. I prefer to compare Slimani to our actual options, Gayle and Joselu. Is he an upgrade on those two? The answer is yes, a massive one.
We may not have broken our transfer record, and I fully understand frustrations towards a penny pinching, incompetent Mike Ashley whose delivered three loans (and two of them far too late), but we’ve brought in a £29m striker who I have real faith in to deliver the goods – something Mitrovic was never capable of doing given his role on the sidelines.