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Scott Parker: I took Aleksandar Mitrovic out of the team to give him a breather

Sheffield United v Fulham – Premier League – Bramall Lane
(Image credit: Oli Scarff)

Scott Parker revealed he took Fulham centre-forward Aleksandar Mitrovic out of the team so he could get “some air and oxygen”.

The Serbian has found his game time limited under Parker this season, starting just one Premier League match since November’s international break.

The number nine has also not scored for Fulham since his side’s 4-3 defeat by Leeds at Elland Road in September.

“I think it’s fair to say that Aleks, at the start of the season, struggled a bit and had a bit of a dip in form,” Parker said, referring to his decisive sudden-death penalty shoot-out miss while on international duty which saw Scotland secure a place at Euro 2020 at the expense of Serbia.

“Being the one centre-forward in the football club, a lot of pressure and responsibility lies on Aleks’ shoulders. I played football for a long time, I understand those pressures and stresses.

“Sometimes coming out of the arena, and getting some air and oxygen, can help.”

The Fulham boss has taken players out of the squad before, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek having to wait until October 18 to make his Fulham debut, and then missing a further game in November.

Parker believes that his decision to take Mitrovic out of the starting line-up will prove beneficial for last season’s Sky Bet Championship golden boot winner.

“I’m sure it’s not been an easy period,” said the boss. “That’s then down to me in terms of managing Aleks and understanding the reasons for that. Of course at the same time, (Ivan) Cavaleiro has done very, very well. The team has done very, very well.

“At the time, players just live in the moment and see it for what it is. That little bit of air you give them, which maybe at first they don’t quite understand, or quite see, they come out the other side, and all of a sudden play with a little bit more freedom.

“They forget what was happening, that burden or dip in form that was maybe on their shoulders.

“I think that’s something that can only help Aleks. Every player has dips in form, every player has moments in their careers and moments in seasons.

“But like I said, I was really pleased with Aleks against Burnley. I thought he was superb when he came on. He was a real presence, showed his quality, played with a real freedom and energy.”