Poyet: 'Jozy will score - but don't ignore the other sides to his game' (From The Advertiser Series)
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Poyet: 'Jozy will score - but don't ignore the other sides to his game'
GUSTAVO POYET has praised Jozy Altidore’s all-round contribution to Sunderland’s attacking, and tipped the American to break his goalscoring duck sooner rather than later.
Altidore returns to Hull City this afternoon for the first time since completing a loan spell in the 2009-10 season that saw him score one goal in 28 Premier League appearances.
This term’s tally with Sunderland is no goals from eight league games, a record that is causing considerable concern given the club’s lack of goal threat from other areas of the field.
How long can Poyet continue to pick a striker who does not score? A fair while yet, seemingly, provided Altidore continues to produce the link-up play and work rate he displayed in last weekend’s derby win over Newcastle.
“I believe in Jozy for different reasons,” said the Sunderland boss, who must decide whether to stick with the players that won the derby when he names his side to face Hull. “One, because I have been with him for two weeks now and I’ve seen him in training and seen how strong he is, and how much he wants to score.
“He did absolutely fantastic tactical work for us against Newcastle, which sometimes you don’t realise, but it was important for the team in terms of shape and organisation.
“I would like to see him sometimes on his own up front – a proper, main striker. Not only with (Steven) Fletcher, but maybe that is for another game.”
In fairness to Altidore, it is not as though he has been missing a host of chances in the matches that have seen him fail to score.
A critical assessment of that is that he does not make the kind of runs that would take a more natural goalscorer into goalscoring positions. He might have scored 40 goals in 79 appearances for AZ Alkmaar, but the defending in the Dutch Eredivisie is not at the same level as that in the Premier League, and the 23-year-old can sometimes appear cumbersome and immobile. Comparisons with Emile Heskey, while not exactly flattering, are perhaps not entirely unfair.
On the other side of the coin, though, Altidore has hardly been blessed with top-class service this season, and there is a feeling within the Sunderland camp that it is unfair to judge him until the quality of the creative play behind him improves.
“I always say that for a striker to score, especially with the characteristics of Jozy, he needs to have a quality of finishing, but then we also need to provide and create,” said Poyet. “It’s not like you put him on the pitch and say, ‘Go on Jozy, score 20 this season’.
“We haven’t created enough chances for him to score goals yet this season. It’s a 50-50 responsibility – one is the team, the other is Jozy himself.
“I saw him this week and he looks happier. He is delighted with the win (against Newcastle), and that he played and felt important in the team. I don’t want to put any pressure on him against Hull, but I’m sure we will see a goal very soon, and then everything will change I suppose. It’s about that confidence that strikers need.”
Poyet is still learning about some of the players he inherited from Paolo Di Canio, but when it comes to Jack Colback, the Uruguayan made his mind up at a very early stage.
Di Canio had been using Colback as a left-back, preferring the North-Easterner to Andrea Dossena, even though the Italian was signed this summer specifically to plug the gap on the left-hand side of the defence.
Poyet is much keener to play players in their natural position, and while he does not rule out Colback returning to left-back if an emergency arises, he regards the 24-year-old as an out-and-out central midfielder.
“From the first time I saw him play a few years ago, he was always a midfielder,” he said. “He can give you a hand as a left-back, but a hand.
“From the second day we trained, he was always a midfielder for me. I won’t play him left-back, I will play him in midfield because that is where he is at his best, and that was proved on Sunday.”
Today, Colback will be charged with the task of neutering one of the most in-form midfielders in the Premier League in the shape of Tom Huddlestone.
The England international has enjoyed a new lease of life since swapping Tottenham for the KC Stadium, and has the ability to hurt Sunderland unless he is prevented from enjoying too much time in possession.
“He’s one of the few players, if not the only one, who can hit a ball 70 yards without moving ten centimetres,” said Poyet, who left Tottenham the year before Huddlestone arrived. “Left, right, ping it around, outside of the foot. He has got an unbelievable ability to hit the ball from side to side.
“It means he is very important in the way Hull play, in his delivery and shots from outside of the box. Plenty of things go through Tom and we need to keep an eye on that.
“I am not surprised he is playing week in, week out because that’s what he was looking for. We need to use our strengths to make him feel uncomfortable. The game has got two sides – one with the ball and one without the ball. Tom likes to have the ball a lot at his feet – if he has it more than us then we will have a problem.”
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