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. Harry Kane pressing for starting role with Spurs

    Oct 31, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT

    Tottenham Hotspur FC v Asteras Tripolis FC - UEFA Europa League Getty Images

    The young striker has seven goals in eleven appearances for Spurs, but is yet to earn a Premier League start this season.

  2. Aston Villa’s Paul Lambert: I’m not ‘bomb-proof’

    Oct 31, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    Aston Villa v Wigan Athletic - Premier League Getty Images

    Aston Villa have lost five straight matches and haven’t scored a goal since September 13th.

  3. Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Queens Park Rangers

    Oct 31, 2014, 4:05 PM EDT

    Manchester United v Chelsea - Premier League Getty Images

    Watch the Blues host the R’s Saturday at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN or online via Live Extra.

  4. Americans Abroad preview: Decent draw for Premier Leaguers

    Oct 31, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT

    1. FC Koeln v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Bundesliga Getty Images

    Take a look at the rest of the fixtures ahead for Yanks in Europe by heading inside.

  5. MLS playoffs weekend preview: Which remaining team has the best form?

    Oct 31, 2014, 2:27 PM EDT

    A.J. Soares, Federico Higuain AP

    New York Red Bulls, Columbus Crew, New England Revolution, FC Dallas, L.A. Galaxy, Seattle Sounders, Real Salt Lake or DC United: Who’s been better?

  6. Van Gaal: Manchester Derby is “biggest” he’ll manage; Rooney in, Falcao out

    Oct 31, 2014, 1:42 PM EDT

    Manchester United Training Session Getty Images

    “This is the biggest derby that I shall manage,” the Manchester United boss told reporters on Friday.

  7. Oguchi Onyewu finds a new, potentially short-term home in England

    Oct 31, 2014, 12:59 PM EDT

    oo-4383-2053012_478x359

    Onyewu has played at QPR, Malaga, Sporting CP, Twente, AC Milan, Newcastle, Standard Liege, La Louviere and Metz since he left Clemson.

  8. WATCH: Premier League TV schedule – Week 10

    Oct 31, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Where and how to watch every game during Week 10 of the PL.

  9. David Silva to miss Manchester derby, out three weeks with knee injury

    Oct 31, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    Manchester City v Newcastle United - Premier League Getty Images

    City and United tangle at 8am ET on NBCSN this Sunday, and the absence of Silva will be a bonus for Louis van Gaal’s Red Devils.

  10. Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks: Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton the standouts

    Oct 31, 2014, 11:10 AM EDT

    Danny Welbeck, Alexis Sanchez AP

    Here’s how PST’s editor and lead writer sees things panning out this weekend.

  11. Premier League Power Rankings: Will Chelsea ever lose, Burnley ever win?

    Oct 31, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

    Leicester City v Burnley - Premier League Getty Images

    We are a quarter of the way through the season. Scary, right? Anyway, here’s our latest rankings of power.

  12. Benfica boss says he’s FIFA Coach of the Year material; Five more names

    Oct 31, 2014, 10:21 AM EDT

    Rodgers Getty Images

    “Some weren’t in the European finals, some weren’t even domestic champions,” said Jesus. Others were, and weren’t nominated. We’ll give out some props.

  13. Premier League Preview: Newcastle United vs. Liverpool

    Oct 31, 2014, 9:40 AM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-LIVERPOOL-NEWCASTLE Getty Images

    Suddenly-hot Newcastle United put their three-match win streak on the line when they host Liverpool on Saturday morning.

  14. Champs no more, proud Sporting KC coach Vermes laments late goal

    Oct 31, 2014, 8:40 AM EDT

    Peter Vermes AP

    Bradley Wright-Phillips netted twice in the final 13 minutes and Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes was left to explain the loss.

  15. Steven Gerrard will play somewhere next season, Liverpool deal or not

    Oct 31, 2014, 7:47 AM EDT

    Liverpool Training Session Getty Images

    It’s difficult to imagine him playing in a different shirt, but one-club men grow more rare by the season.

  16. MLS playoff update: How does postseason picture look right now?

    Oct 31, 2014, 12:13 AM EDT

    mauro-diaz-10-of-fc-dallas Getty Images

    After FC Dallas and the New York Red Bulls defeated their opponents in the first two games of the MLS playoffs, the postseason picture exists in its beginning stages.

  17. Robbie Keane, regardless of playoffs, will play in US-Ireland match overseas

    Oct 30, 2014, 11:37 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Galaxy  v Chivas USA Getty Images

    Robbie Keane stands ready to play for his international side right after the LA Galaxy’s playoff contests vs. Real Salt Lake.