English Premier League

Jozy Altidore looking uninspired at Hull

Quality service lacking at Hull.

Having the day off yesterday, I was excited at the prospect of some afternoon football to keep me glued to the sofa. Sadly, instead of the massively important Liverpool v. Villa match, FSC (and thus, myself) got stuck with the relegation six-pointer between Hull and Bolton. At the very least it was an opportunity to watch Jozy Altidore play and hear Gary Megson be tunefully told he’s getting sacked in morning. Like any sane person, I’d chalked this up to nil-nil, or Hull losing on an own-goal. As it turns out, Hull fought back to win a point in spite of themselves, with the tireless Stephen Hunt single-handedly dragging them out to the tune of 2-2. Our man Jozy Altidore however was, perhaps significantly, no longer on the pitch for either goal.

Make no mistake, this was a really tough game to watch. Referee Phil Dowd, seemingly never far away from controversy, had an easy one — due in part to the fact that a clear foul was committed about every 30 seconds, allowing his rotund figure many a rest. In what was a turgid first half, the only moment of actual quality was Ivan Klasnic’s strike, giving Bolton a lead they just about deserved. Hull produced next to nothing. Their only real highlight was Altidore’s weighted pass to Craig Fagan, who proceeded to dribble it right into Jussi Jaaskelainen. Apart from that, Hull were a shambles. Kamil Zayatte in particular had a very poor game and his insecurity clearly spread throughout the back line. Against better opposition, Hull could have been down 6-0 at the break with how they were defending.

But what of the young Mr. Altidore?

In addition to the quality pass to Fagan, he also worked hard for a corner, won a free kick in a dangerous area, and had a half-decent attempt on goal from a free kick, thus being involved in just about the only occasions of positive soccer created by Hull in the first half. So what’s the problem? Why subbed off after only 55 minutes? You can see it in his body language, the way he carries himself on the pitch. He is uninspired, pure and simple. He isn’t challenging for loose balls, and he isn’t occupying defenders the way a player of his size and strength should be. Some of that is down to effort, which is something he needs to work on or get coached into, but there is a mitigating factor here: Hull are a really bad team. He receives hardly any quality service whatsoever. For an out-and-out striker like Altidore, you can’t score unless you are getting the ball. He’s not getting the ball, he’s not scoring, and he looks lost.

Hull’s second half comeback was down to the all-action Stephen Hunt and some poor defending from Bolton, and Jozy’s substitution seemed to have little impact on the game overall. However, this is not the first (or second, or third) time this season that an ineffective Altidore has been subbed off fairly early. You have to wonder if Phil Brown is trying to send him a message. The teamsheet for the FA cup match against Wigan will be telling.

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