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Which Newcastle striker will lead the way in 2015-16?

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Everyone wants to see Aleksandar Mitrovic banging them in, but who is standing in his way?

Clive Mason/Getty Images

Newcastle United scored a meagre 40 goals last season; two worse than the League’s worst club, QPR. Only Papiss Cisse (11 goals) hit double figures in the Premier League and last summer’s forward signing, Emmanuel Riviere, was somehow still the worst player the Premier League imported from Monaco ahead of the slightly-less-garbage Falcao. With a defense that will likely feature one of Mike Williamson or Steven Taylor, Newcastle will need more goals from their forwards if they want to improve on last season’s disappointing 15th place finish. These are the candidates.

Returning Starters

Papiss Cisse

The incumbent is last season’s top scorer and Papiss will likely start up top against Southampton. Cisse has been on the cusp of a transfer away from the club almost constantly over the last 24 months, but has remained at Newcastle and has continued to score. In his four years at Newcastle he’s never returned to the heights of his unbelievable first four months in the Premier League when he scored 13 goals in 14 games. At 30 years old, Cisse is no longer the future, and will surely have to begin making way for Ayoze Perez and Aleksandar Mitrovic. But when Cisse starts scoring it’s hard to get him to stop; if he gets off the mark against Southampton he could easily be McClaren’s go-to forward for the first few weeks of the season.

2014-15 Premier League Season Stats

Appearances: 22

Goals scored: 11

Assists: 1

Shots per 90 minutes: 3.5

Ayoze Perez

One of the rare bright spots of last year’s dismal campaign, Ayoze is under some pressure this season to continue his development. As with every player under a new manager, his role is not guaranteed. Last season, Ayoze looked lost whenever he played as a lone striker and has been played as a left-sided forward often in pre-season. If he struggles, players like Remy Cabella and Rolando Aarons are waiting to take his place.

2014-15 Premier League Season Stats

Appearances: 36

Goals scored: 7

Assists: 0

Shots/90: 2.3

Dribbles/90: 2.3

Sort of Returning

Siem De Jong

Sort of a striker, sort of a number 10, Siem De Jong was set to be an integral part of Pardew’s side last year, until several injuries (including a collapsed lung) limited him to just 4 appearances. At Ajax he was a goal scorer, hitting double digits four seasons in a row from 2009 to 2013. He captained the Dutch giants for two seasons, and could provide some much needed leadership on the pitch given Coloccini’s diminishing role. If you’ll forgive the use of Football Manager lingo, De Jong could operate as a shadow striker just behind the main forward, running into channels and pouncing on pull backs. With Anita and Wijnaldum appearing to be big parts of McClaren’s plans thus far, playing De Jong ahead of those two would make for an imposing Dutch core.

2014-15 Premier League Season Stats

Appearances: 4

Goals scored: 1

Assists: 0

Shots/90: 3.1

Adam Armstrong

I’ve seen little to indicate that Wor Adam will amount to anything greater than Newcastle’s other recent failed forward prospects. We’ve seen this cycle before. Highly rated youth striker scores a hatful in the U18s/21s. Earns a call up to the senior side. Comes off the bench with 10 minutes left and plays a few decent passes. Maybe earns a start or two. Never truly impresses, gets told it’s now or never, gets shipped out on loan, then eventually let go. It happened with Adam Campbell, it’s happening with Haris Vuckic, it’ll happen with Armstrong. He’s currently on loan at Coventry until January, let’s see if he can cut it there before we start labeling him the next home-grown hero.

2014-15 Premier League Season Stats

Appearances: 11

Goals scored: 0

Assists: 1

Shots/90: 3.1

Yoan Gouffran

Technically still a forward, over his two years at Newcastle Yoan was Pardewed from being an incisive outside forward to a poor Jonas Gutierrez tribute act. He'll hold up the ball just long enough to pass it to the other team, and I suppose his only upside at this point is his ability to press and frustrate opposing players who are on the ball. He's a useful option to bring on late in a game when Newcastle are trying to protect a lead, but will hopefully be nowhere near the first team under McClaren.

2014-15 Premier League Season Stats

Appearances: 31

Goals scored: 2

Assists: 1

Shots/90: 1.1

Emmanuel Riviere

Emmanuel was so disappointing last season, that I genuinely forgot to include him until I went and looked at Newcastle’s squad to see if I had missed anyone. And just as I missed Emmanuel, the man himself missed some unbelievably clear cut chances last season. He had an atrocious year outside of his two goal performance in a Capital One Cup victory over Crystal Palace early on and signs aren’t encouraging that this year will be any better. He went in for minor knee surgery a couple of weeks ago, and will be out for an indeterminate amount of time. It’s hard to see where he’ll fit in McClaren’s side, mainly because the new manager seems to prefer competent players and Riviere is not one of those.

2014-15 Premier League Season Stats

Appearances: 23

Goals scored: 1

Assists: 1

Shots/90: 2.4

The New Guy

Aleksandar Mitrovic

This is the one everyone’s excited about. The volatile, strong, talented Serbian striker from Anderlecht has been touted as the new Balotelli, but it remains to be seen if the poacher with a penchant for pizza will be anything more than Hatem Ben Arfa II: Serbian Boogaloo. At just 20 years old Mitrovic has already been performing at a high level for years: he scored 3 goals in the Champions League last season, including a late equalizer against Arsenal (something he and Tiote will presumably trade notes on). Last season at Anderlecht he scored 28 goals in 51 games, a rate of 0.55 goals per game. The last highly-rated young striker to join the Premier League from Anderlecht was Romelu Lukaku, who scored 20 in 50 in his final season in Belgium. The potential is there, and if he can access it early on in the season he could have a very big year.

Final Ranking

It's unlikely that more than 2 of these players will ever be on the pitch at the same time, although I would enjoy seeing Siem De Jong sitting just behind two strikers. With the one striker system McClaren has been playing, this is the order I'd like to see these players appear.

1. Aleksandar Mitrovic. He cost £13 million, he is the future. He needs to be the main man.

2. Papiss Cisse. If he were to start all 38 Premier League matches, he would score over 10 goals. He's getting old and he doesn't offer much aside from his finishing, but he has the experience that Mitrovic and Ayoze are lacking.

3. Ayoze Perez. I don't like him alone up top, which is why he's here. Would love to see him partner Mitrovic up top.

4. Siem De Jong. He'll be playing deeper.

5. Emmanuel Riviere. No.

6. Gouffran. Very no.