When Aleksander Mitrovic signed for Fulham on loan from Newcastle I had a cautious excitement about the deal. History has shown that the Serb has the sort of tenacious aggression that we had been missing in attack, but it also showed that the 23 year-old could be a hothead and a liability. By the age of 21 he had already amassed over 20 senior career yellow cards and 3 red cards. Interestingly, or perhaps just shockingly, each of his red cards in his senior career have been straight reds for stamps, head butts or similar. In his first season with Newcastle in 2015/16 his first four games included two yellow cards and then his first red in English football for a studs up challenge/stamp on Arsenal’s Francis Coquelin. On the final day of that season, with Newcastle already relegated, Mitrovic got a straight red for a horror challenge on Tottenham’s Kyle Walker. He is very fortunate that he didn’t effectively end Walker’s career, it was THAT bad. For the Coquelin challenge Mitrovic earned himself a three-game ban, for the Walker challenge it was a four-game ban that was carried on to their first four games back in the Championship for the 2016/17 season.
After then keeping his nose relatively clean for the 2016/17 season with Newcastle, Mitrovic started this season more like his old over aggressive self. He was handed a retrospective three game ban for violent conduct after an elbow on West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini on the 26th August 2017. The referee missed the incident entirely but after it was caught on video, the FA charged him with violent conduct. It was that event that was most likely the final nail in the coffin of his Newcastle career. He had completely lost the trust of his manager and many of the Newcastle fans.
However, there was something that I have always liked about Mitrovic. He has an incredible desire to win and to score goals for his team. He has always been the sort of striker who needs to be loved, not just by his team mates but by his club’s fans. He just didn’t have this at Newcastle. In Fulham he has found a home and in Jokanovic he has found a mentor. In any interview that Mitrovic has done where Jokanovic has been mentioned, you can nearly feel the respect that he has for him. As a fellow Serb they have the relationship that has allowed Mitrovic to thrive. In a recent interview with Sky Sports, Mitrovic spoke about how Jokanovic has helped to focus him and has encouraged him to put his aggression into something positive, which is exactly what he has done. In 13 appearances for Fulham he has nine goals and one assist. Additionally, since he came to Fulham he has also scored twice for Serbia meaning that since February he has managed eleven goals in fourteen games. Jokanovic has helped transform him for club and country.
Mitrovic at Fulham is a man reborn. He hasn’t lost his aggression, but he has focused it into his football in a positive way. We are without a doubt seeing the best of him and he has massively improved this Fulham side and become the piece of the attacking jigsaw that we have missed.
I’m thrilled that we have been able to witness someone come in and prove that he is worth it. His raw talent is being well matured thanks to Jokanovic and his own desire to do well. Fulham have a massive chance to get promoted this year and if we do, making Mitrovic’s deal permanent should be the number one thing on the summer to-do list. The Serb has been a revelation, so long may the Fulham-Mitrovic love affair continue.