Skip to content

Jozy Altidore and Steven Fletcher; a partnership Sunderland are relying on

Sep 18, 2013, 2:31 PM EDT

Sunderland v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

SUNDERLAND — Following Sunderland’s spirited defeat to Arsenal at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, I asked manager Paolo Di Canio a pretty straightforward question after the game.

And, as is often the case with the fiery Italian manager, a long-winded, passionate and positive response came back at me.

The topic I was interested in was the form of U.S. national team striker Jozy Altidore and his partnership with recently fit-again Steven Fletcher, as the duo were paired up front together for the first-time against the Gunners.

How does Di Canio think they will fare?

“I tell you this because I have to work in a psychological way,” Di Canio said, almost whispering. “Both [Altidore and Flecther] probably are thinking that they’re the main man up front. Same reason… but different reason. One has already been here, scored twelve goals and one came from abroad but scored many goals last year.”

So with a battle to be the top striker heating up across the Black Cats’ forward line, Di Canio has a solution that will make both players better.

(MORE: Paolo Di Canio blasts ref after Altidore goal controversially disallowed)

And he also believes Altidore and Fletcher can become one of the best partnerships in the Premier League.

source: Getty Images

Fletcher has been playing the provider for Altidore. Can their partnership take off?

“If they don’t turn their face but the encourage each other, they can start that togetherness,” Di Canio said. “They can be one of the best couple up front because they have quality and intelligence.”

He has a point.

On Saturday during a second half barrage of chances for Sunderland that saw both Altidore and Fletcher scored disallowed goals, the duo looked at each other just before a corner kick came in. ‘Fletch’ and Jozy embraced and then high-fived one another, the makings of a partnership is already visible. The Scottish and American double act do compliment each other very well. 23-year-old Altidore is the hold up man, with his brute strength and raw pace, he can get in behind defenses and cause problems. Sunderland top scorer last season, Fletcher has the creative nature and ingenuity to produce the passes Altidore needs to thrive.

Sunderland’s Italian manager believes that the more the duo work together, the better they will become.

“One is more powerful, one is more clever in some way,” Di Canio said. “They can be two very good players who play together  up front. It’s important that they have to start to share the moment. The fatigue, the sadness, the happiness together. Together. And then we are going to have two very good players. Very important players.”

But can the two international strikers become the best partnership in the Premier League? I have my doubts. Yet it would be great to be proved wrong. Altidore is still searching for his first PL goal in a Sunderland jersey, although he was cruelly denied by a wrong decision on Saturday, and Fletcher is feeling his way back in.

(MORE: Sunderland 1-3 Arsenal; Ramsey double puts Gunners top)

source: Getty Images

Can Altidore flourish as the lone target man, as Sunderland struggle to gel?

Fletcher is recovering from a long-term injury and many believed that when he returned, Altidore could find himself playing second-fiddle to the bearded Scotsman. However it seems as if Di Canio wants to play a two man front-line, with Fletcher slightly behind Altidore. But the Italian, looking my way in a calm manner, thinks they need to accept their roles in order for the partnership to pay dividends.

“They have to understand — they combined well two or three times in the second half — that they have to work together,” Di Canio said. “I tell you not because it happened already, but they did not put up a wall [stop the partnership from working]. But they have to decide who is going to work harder off the ball, who is going to play deeper, because we play 4-4-1-1, and one has to play deeper and work harder off the other and near the opponents central midfielder.”

It seems as if the Altidore-Fletcher combo is a work in progress, but Di Canio believes it can flourish and produce the goals Sunderland need to move up the Premier League standings.

Currently the Black Cats are bottom of the table and have yet to win a game from their first four outings. Can Altidore and Fletcher come to the rescue this season?

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge to miss a month with hip injury

    Mar 26, 2015, 7:17 PM EDT

    Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool FC Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool FC

    Another month out for Sturridge, just when Liverpool’s top-four dreams rest on his shoulders the most.

  2. UEFA fines Malmo $110,000 for “poor pitch” in Champions League, but racism still only worth $11,000

    Mar 26, 2015, 6:54 PM EDT

    Swedbank Stadium, Malmo FF Swedbank Stadium, Malmo FF

    You couldn’t get this one anymore wrong, UEFA. 10-times worse than racism? Not OK.

  3. Hope Solo says she entered therapy during 30-day suspension from USWNT

    Mar 26, 2015, 5:54 PM EDT

    Hope Solo, USWNT Hope Solo, USWNT

    Solo said her 30-day suspension was full of therapy, apologies to her teammates and getting herself right for this summer’s World Cup.

  4. EURO 2016 preview: Qualifying resumes for England, Spain, Germany, Italy

    Mar 26, 2015, 5:04 PM EDT

    EURO 2016 EURO 2016

    This weekend’s EURO 2016 qualifiers marks the halfway point of the group stage, which means it’s do-or-die time for a few hopefuls, and some giants.

  5. Soccer’s rich list: Jose Mourinho best paid coach, here’s the top 20

    Mar 26, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT

    Chelsea FC v FC Schalke 04 - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    The “Special One” received a rather special amount of cash in 2014.

  6. Barcelona’s Xavi set to sign deal in Qatar; will not join New York City FC, MLS

    Mar 26, 2015, 2:42 PM EDT

    Barcelona's midfielder Xavi Hernandez ce Barcelona's midfielder Xavi Hernandez ce

    Xavi is heading to Qatar on a three-year deal, will get paid $11 million per season.

  7. Soccer’s rich list: Who are the top 20 highest earning players?

    Mar 26, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT

    Lionel Messi, Neymar Lionel Messi, Neymar

    Here’s a look at the players with the highest revenue in 2014.

  8. VIDEO: Watch Alexis Sanchez play the piano to John Legend song

    Mar 26, 2015, 12:50 PM EDT

    Sanchez piano

    When he’s not ripping apart Premier League defenses, Sanchez loves to unwind by tickling the ivory.

  9. Report: Brazilian striker Luiz Adriano interesting Liverpool, Arsenal

    Mar 26, 2015, 11:28 AM EDT

    Turkey v Brazil International friendly match Turkey v Brazil International friendly match

    Shakhtar’s star striker set to leave in December when his contract runs out.

  10. Morgan Schneiderlin wants Southampton exit if they fail to make UEFA Champions League

    Mar 26, 2015, 10:21 AM EDT

    Schneiderlin Getty Images

    Saints midfielder speaks of his desire to play in the UCL, reassess his future this summer.

  11. Theo Walcott denies fall out with Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger over contract talks

    Mar 26, 2015, 8:45 AM EDT

    Arsenal v Leicester City - Premier League Getty Images

    Walcott denies a “bust-up” with Wenger over contract talks.

  12. Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil believes he can win Ballon d’Or award to silence critics

    Mar 26, 2015, 7:58 AM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    The German international playmaker is aiming to join the Messi’s and Ronaldo’s of this world.

  13. Union’s Zach Pfeffer given 2nd game for elbow, Manneh also suspended

    Mar 25, 2015, 11:31 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 11.20.07 PM

    The MLS disciplinary committee was busy after this last weekend.

  14. Messi, Argentina attend Wizards vs Pacers NBA game

    Mar 25, 2015, 9:54 PM EDT

    Argentina AP

    All the priceless images and marketable moments from the Argentinian national team’s visit to the Verizon Center.

  15. Sami Khedira confirms he will leave Real Madrid at the end of the season

    Mar 25, 2015, 9:01 PM EDT

    Khedira Getty Images

    Having won just about every possible trophy in his five years at the Bernabeu, the German is moving on.

  16. Perry Kitchen not suspended for apparent stamp at Red Bull Arena

    Mar 25, 2015, 7:58 PM EDT

    Kitchen AP

    The D.C. United midfielder appears to be getting off lightly, and the Red Bull captain isn’t pleased.

Featured video

Week 30: Headline PL moment