Some fascinating stuff has emerged from the Chronicle today, with Lee Ryder revealing how Rafa Benitez DID give Aleksandar Mitrovic his big chance to succeed at NUFC this season – only for the Serbian to underperform during training sessions set by the Spaniard.
The Mitrovic debate has been a big one over the past 18 months, however it’s perhaps never been bigger now he’s banging the goals in for Fulham just weeks after Benitez allowed him to go out on loan.
Since his two goals on Tuesday night, which took his tally up to 5 goals in his last 4 games, the Chronicle have revealed just how Rafa Benitez gave the Serbian his chance to impress in training – however he was shown to be lagging behind his teammates, hence his absence from Benitez’s matchday squads.
Here’s a snippet from the Chronicle’s insightful piece on the striker situation, explaining how Mitrovic failed to take the opportunity handed to him by Benitez:
“The Serbian has grabbed the headlines by netting five goals in four games for the Londoners with a double against Sheffield United last night ensuring his World Cup bid remains on track.
“This has meant some observers have come to the conclusion that Newcastle’s struggles at times this season are because of Mitrovic’s absence from the first team picture. Although, the truth is that Rafa Benitez DID offer Mitrovic the chance to be a success on Tyneside this season after simply asking him to show in training sessions he was up to the task of leading the line. Benitez also used a GPS system – in training – to keep a close eye on sprints and distance covered on the pitch along with headers, aerial challenges and tackles.
“Even goals netted in small-sided games were taken into account but Mitrovic’s training performances weren’t better than Dwight Gayle, Joselu or Ayoze Perez, meaning Benitez stuck faith with those who were delivering Monday-Friday.”
Now, people will no doubt state that what happens on the pitch on a Saturday is more important than training through the week, however Rafa clearly believes in rewarding those who perform on the training pitch – and this suggests Mitrovic didn’t.
Is Mitrovic a better striker than Joselu if used right? Most definitely. But Benitez knows exactly how he wants his team to set up and will have been incredibly meticulous in the way he prepares every detail ahead of a game. If he felt Mitrovic wasn’t listening, wasn’t training hard enough or wasn’t performing when others were, why should he pick him? Don’t you think he would have if he felt Mitrovic could offer what we wanted?
Don’t get me wrong folks, Mitrovic can easily come across as our most dangerous striker – and he almost certainly is when used right (see Fulham) – but why should Rafa play him if he’s not showing enough in training? Too stubborn some may say, but we don’t have a team or a system that plays into his hands. So why change it all to suit a player that isn’t performing in training.
This may make Rafa out to be too old-school for some fans liking, but if discipline and hard work weren’t instilled into this bunch, we’d be gonners by now!