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Making the Case For: Jozy Altidore

The US International striker is alleged to be on the move from Dutch side AZ Alkmaar. Could he be a decent fit for Newcastle to pair with Papiss Cissé?

Christof Koepsel

Edit: Yesterday's video highlights of USA v. Panama World Cup Qualifier submitted without comment.

In what must be labelled as the greatest moment in Coming Home Newcastle twitter history, Callum Kane (@callumkane_) not only received a direct response from Jozy himself:

but we were able to reach out to Jozy's publicist and receive a response from him as well:

Internet geekery aside, we as a site seem to be united in our belief that 23-year old American would be a worthwhile investment by the club. However, there is significant also doubt in Newcastle support that the would be a player that Newcastle United should target. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of a Jozy Altidore to Newcastle United move:

The Case For The Prosecution

The case against Jozy Altidore hinges largely upon a perceived laziness in his early USMNT career, failed early stints with clubs after his initial move to Europe with Villarreal and the quality of the Dutch League in general. A lot of this is fair- He scored a sum total of 3 goals for his parent club while not faring much better (1 goal in 16 starts and 12 substitue appearances for Hull City in the Premier League; 1 goal in 5 starts and 6 substitute appearances for Bursaspor in the Turkish Super LIg) out on loan. For many, this time (especially the time with Hull) will be the determining factor in establishing perceived value for Altidore although he was merely 20 years old at the time and had just over 60 competitive appearances at the professional/international level to his name. For some, this is still enough - but it must be considered that recent history is littered with young "phenom" American strikers who have moved across or be signed too early and fallen off the map from what they were supposed to be (see Conor Casey, Eddie Johnson, Freddy Adu, Kenny Cooper or even Landon Donovan's early career to name a few notable recent examples). It's kind of what American attackers do. That or eventually find a Landon Donovan mid-career or Clint Dempsey role as a cut-in type winger or second striker.

Altidore detractors will also point to his apparent fall-outs with legendary Germany striker and current USMNT manager Jürgen Klinsmann during his time in charge thus far.

"I communicated with Jozy that I was not happy about his latest performances with us, maybe even over the last 14 months," Klinsmann said. "I think Jozy can do much, much better, and the reason why he's not coming in is mainly about the performances in Jamaica and at home, also in training. Also certain things that went on through the May-June camp.'' -Jürgen Klinsmann

While a lot of this is based upon a certain amount of early career misunderstanding of what high-level performance and achievement at the striker position entails, it is notable that the worst of the fallout seems to have been exacerbated by AZ by adhering strictly to FIFA regulations regarding release of players for International duty - either giving the appearance or betraying the fact (depending on which side you may be on) that Altidore was not committed to the national team cause. Whatever the ultimate cause of this rocky relationship, it does coincide with a tangible uptick in Jozy's club form. While his switch to AZ Alkmaar occurred in the same general time window as Klinsmann's appointment as USMNT manager, it's not outside of reason that the two variables are independent of each other - and have been assimilated by Altidore to fuel a tremendous growth in on-pitch attitude and skill development.

The third main argument against bringing Jozy to Newcastle is predicated upon the fact that his success has come in the Dutch League, an argument that I find not only hard to believe in but also largely incongruous in the scheme of transfer desires - if you're willing to have the likes of Toby Alderweireld, Douglas or Jan Vertonghen (for instance) in your squad then an argument that the defensive quality in the Eredivisie is suspect at best. Defensive quality is going to vary vastly within divisions and within leagues - any goal compilation is going to feature its fair share of defensive SNAFUs from which the goal scorer benefitted. It is dangerous ground to tread, but I did find this while reading around on Jozy:

  • Interesting to note:

  • Jozy had 15 goals in his first season in the Eredivisie at age 22.
  • Luis Suarez (Ajax) had 17 goals in his first season in the Eredivisie at age 21.
  • Romario (PSV) had 19 goals in his first season in the Eredivisie at age 23.
  • Dennis Bergkamp (Ajax) had five goals, 13 goals and eight goals in his first three seasons in the Eredivisie, and had between 25-30 appearances in each of those seasons. (Jozy had 34 appearances this season).
  • Ruud van Nistelrooy (PSV) had 13 goals in 31 appearances in the Eredivisie at age 22.

Each of these players made a mark in the Eredivisie at a young age. Each of them went on to be a world-class striker. Numbers are a dangerous thing - the likes of Dirk Kuyt, Salomon Kalou and Bryan Ruiz have all featured in the top-10 scorers list for the Eredivisie and had tepid goal scoring records in the Premier League. There is no guarantee that Jozy will turn into anything like any of the strikers listed above. Is it completely out of the realm of possibility? Certainly not.

The Case For The Defense

So I have managed to self-wreck the way I had this set out (largely) as I can't manage to make the argument against without countering with the argument for in counterpoint. Allow me to present the obligatory Jozy highlight YouTube extrevaganza:

How Could Jozy Fit In At Newcastle

Following the sale of Demba Ba to Chelsea, Newcastle struggled offensively. Without the presence of a target-type front man, Papiss Cissé was employed as a single striker - a role in which he struggled mightily. In addition, the midfield struggled with the tactical ideas of the 4-2-3-1 that Alan Pardew insisted on employing - or at very least with the ideas Pardew had about how the 4-2-3-1 should function. Gone was the fluid passing team and attractive football that we enjoyed during the 2011-12 season. Exaggerated was the tendency to play a long ball either directly from defense or from deep in the midfield. Enter Jozy Altidore.

Jozy can function as a target man - he is strong enough and accomplished enough in the air to control, flick on or hold up play as necessary. If Cissé can go back to playing off of another player (as he was able to in the 4-3-3 following his move in January 2012), it stands to reason that he will be able to play more naturally and instinctively and (hopefully) return to the rich vein of goalscoring that he was playing from prior to this past season. Could it be as easy as "stop asking Cissé to think so much"? I guess we'll find out... but having Jozy to play off of sure couldn't hurt either way.

As I mentioned earlier, Jozy's success has coincided with his move to Alkmaar and their 4-3-3 formation. Interestingly, a Jozy to Newcastle move would effectively preclude a shift back to the 4-3-3 for Newcastle United. Shifting either Cissé or Altidore to the wing would likely be unfruitful (proven in Cissé's case while Altidore has played almost exclusively as the center in the 4-3-3 at AZ). Perhaps a 4-3-1-2 would be more appropriate looking like this:


Debuchy -- Yanga-Mbiwa -- Coloccini -- Santon

Cabaye -- Tiote -- Sissoko

Ben Arfa

Altidore -- Cissé

This particular lineup is full of attacking potential and could easily morph into a 4-1-3-2 if you were to want to push Cabaye/Sissoko further up the pitch (which I would be a fan of, especially in Cabaye's case). It would mean a little less reliance on Debuchy / Santon pushing forward if you were to do so, but you could certainly make a case that it would be preferable, for sure. A lot of this, of course, depends upon keeping the players involved with the club. It also limits (yet again) the opportunities of players like Sylvain Marveaux and Yoan Gouffran. Frankly, for me, I wouldn't hate Gouffran in the Ben Arfa role with freedom to run off of Altidore/Cissé or provide angled runs from the center.

The Jozy Toolkit

While he's never likely to be a Big Dunc or a Sir Les, for instance, Jozy is competent in the air. He can score from his head and can provide for other attacking chances from his head. He has exhibited good positioning and decision making with regards to when to pull play back, when to attack the defense and where to be to receive a cross in the most advantageous position. He has speed enough, even if he's not Craig Bellamy fast, strength enough to fight off center backs, the desire and ability to keep improving and the ability to keep fighting when situations become tough. At 23, he has likely not peaked - physically or skill-wise - and if he were able to take some schooling from the likes of Peter Beardsley or (if he would be so willing) the likes of Alan Shearer, I believe you would be dealing with a very very well spent £3.2m.