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Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic desire to improve is not fading

last updated Friday 01st April 2022, 12:43 PM

Fulham Football Club

Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic
Fulham striker
Aleksandar Mitrovic
Aleksandar Mitrovic
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Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic has long been considered too good for the Championship, but this season the Fulham striker has taken his dominance of the division to a whole new level.

The Serb has notched 35 goals this term and has already smashed the record for the most scored in a Championship campaign, set only last season by Brentford’s Ivan Toney,

The Serbian international also has a World Cup to look forward to later this year, but having broken Toney’s record with 14 games to spare - and with nine still to go - the focus is on getting to 40 goals and the Premier League.

The Fulham striker set the record for the fewest number of games to reach 20 goals in the Championship having hit that mark after just 17 appearances, while he now has the best minutes-per-goal average since the break-up of the old Football League in 1992, scoring once every 119 minutes.

The tale has long gone that the 27-year-old has always been too good for the Championship and not good enough for the Premier League (much like Fulham) and many have been quick to put this sensational season down simply to the fact that he is back in the second tier following relegation last season - but he has more quality than that.

“He could be someone like [Romelu] Lukaku or [Olivier] Giroud, but he’s not a player who can play on the counter-attack.

“He needs to be in a team that dominates games and gets him in the box, he needs to be in and around the opposition’s box. I think that’s the key to the difference in his performance levels in the Championship and the Premier League. He needs to be in a team that plays to his qualities.”

Those who work with and watch Mitrovic closely will tell you he is a completely different animal this season.

Manager Marco Silva has made training more regimented and turned Fulham into a far fitter side that can attack on a more consistent basis throughout games than under his predecessor, Scott Parker.

Mitrovic had essentially been ostracised under Parker and would have left the club were it not for his departure in the summer.

The striker has now been given far more freedom to roam the forward line in a team which sets up more chances for him and vice versa. Fans feel they got the better side of the deal when Mitrovic stayed at Craven Cottage and Parker departed.

Not only do they have a striker scoring more than anyone before him in the Championship, but Mitrovic now has more assists (seven) than he has ever managed in a single season thanks to Silva’s system and his determination.

That hard work is something not many fans witness. During his early days at Newcastle, Mitrovic developed a reputation for being somewhat hotheaded, something he was keen to quash when arriving in west London.

“He’s extremely professional and very hard-working,” says Jokanovic. “He came to Fulham wanting to succeed.

“I never had any problems with him. In fact, when he joined, he said to me: ‘Boss, I’m not going to do anything crazy.’ When we started to train, you could instantly tell that he was a top player with real quality.”

His desire to improve is not fading, either.

“I have known him since playing in Belgium, he has always been a goalscorer but he has improved and scores even more,” teammate Neeskens Kebano told Standard Sport.

“In the game he is very important for us, he allows us to go up the pitch and holds the ball up very well.

“He releases it to the wings or even to a No8 or 6. Now he has added running into the space and is improving again.

“He is in great shape too.”

Fitness has been a key factor in Mitrovic’s development. Silva has improved this across the board but the former Newcastle United man has been working with a private personal trainer who also counts Chelsea duo Reece James and Ruben Loftus-Cheek among his clients.

Mitrovic sets himself targets in five goal bursts. He raced to 20, through 25, 30 and now to 35. This weekend’s opponents QPR may take solace from the fact he has not scored in the last two games, but he has not gone three league games without a goal all season.

It is all coming together and Mitrovic is hitting new heights in a system that is better suited to him than any before at Fulham.

Mitrovic’s focus will be on hitting 40, but many more will be look to next season already. It feels as if Silva and Fulham have a striker finally primed for the Premier League.

Source Jack Rosser at London Evening Standard
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