One goal in 34 appearances – Jozy Altidore’s introduction to the Premier League has been a baptism of fire to say the least.
The Sunderland striker hasn’t had things his own way since a reported £8.5 million move in the summer of 2013, making him the most expensive American player ever. A lack of goals soon clouded promising performances and the 24-year-old is without a league strike since netting in a 4-3 defeat to Chelsea in December of last year.
Differing past records
Aside from a solitary Capital One Cup goal en route to a Wembley final, Altidore hasn’t hit the net in any other game for the club, but his career hasn’t always been strewn with goal-shy seasons.
The Mackems took a gamble on a player who previously failed in a Premier League spell, but also a player who excelled in the Dutch Eredevisie prior to his move. A highly respectable 16 goals in his first season was followed swiftly 23 in 2012/13, racing out of the blocks with seven in the first five games of the season.
While the burly frontman courted attention from a range of clubs across Europe, plenty would have taken note of previous poor form before he entered the Eredivisie.
One goal in a previous Premier League stint at Hull and three goals in two seasons either side of that for Villarreal suggested Altidore lacked a cutting edge at the very highest level. Scoring regularly in the MLS, a division known for poor defensive sides, barely equates to much in the top European leagues.
Wavering fortunes of Eredivisie strikers in England
In the summer of 2013, Altidore became a signing under the ill-fated reign of Paulo di Canio and Roberto De Fanti. Could he recreate his Dutch form into a profitable return for his new side?
Success of strikers coming from the Eredivisie has fluctuated wildly over the years. Afonso Alves, Middlesborough’s notoriously poor signing for around £14 million, scored almost at will during his time with Heerenveen but netted just ten times in the North East; his scoring rate dropped alarmingly from a goal every 73 minutes in the Netherlands to 283 minutes per strike during his time with 'Boro.
Despite Alves’s wretched time, two more recent moves prove the step can be taken.
Swansea’s Wilfried Bony has seen his value virtually double after a successful debut year, not only in the league but in the Europa League, while Graziano Pelle has so far earned rave reviews at Southampton.
Does Alitdore have the ability?
While Sunderland fans may have labelled the American as 'Dozy Anti-Score' to mock a detrimental goal tally, things initially looked promising.
Using his naturally stocky frame and strength advantages, Altidore was deployed as a lone striker and initially did relatively well. Though the goals weren’t there, contributions came through work-rate and the occasional assist, including one against arch-rivals Newcastle.
As games continued to drift by without goals, the rest dried up with it. Confidence decreased, assists disappeared and eventually the striker was playing reserve team football just to get game time. Once Connor Wickham returned from a loan spell at Leeds, manager Gus Poyet preferred the Englishman and Altidore barely featured again.
Many would rightly argue he has the attributes to succeed in the Premier League. If Poyet again opts for a lone striker, Altidore’s size and strength make him a prime candidate for holding the ball up and bringing more technically gifted midfielders into play.
Poyet’s pre-season decision to hand Altidore a public vote of confidence may also ensure his man hits somewhere near his potential, both in this and future seasons at the Stadium of Light.
Sometimes all it takes is one goal and the rest flow; whether it will happen with the American import remains to be seen.
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