When it comes to the goal scoring, U.S. international Jozy Altidore is pretty much on pace to match last year’s breakout season. The Alkmaar striker had 22 goals across all competitions for the Dutch club last year.
Just back from the Dutch season’s winter break, Altidore has 12 goals in all competitions, including 11 in Eredivisie play. So, individually things look roughly the same – which isn’t bad at all.
But it’s the team ambition that looks quite different at the moment. AZ finished a surprising fourth last year in the 18-team league, a terrific finish for one of Holland’s smaller clubs. This year, AZ is a lot closer to a nasty drop than to heroic challenge for the top; AZ sits 12th now, just three points out of the group that would find itself in a white knuckle playoff to avoid relegation into the Dutch second tier.
I talked to Altidore this morning as part of the Soccer Today show I co-host weekly. Two interesting things from the short interview as they relate to the club:
- First, Altidore told us the feel is a little different heading back into training after the winter break; everyone can already sense the weight of it, the threat the relegation hanging like that proverbial dark cloud. It’s what everyone always says about the lurking relegation monster.
- And, the U.S. striker reminded us that the Dutch table isn’t the only way into European competition. There’s also the Dutch Cup, and his team is into the quarterfinals. They play at FC Den Bosch on Jan. 29 – ironically, kicking off just a few hours before Jurgen Klinsmann’s team of mostly MLS men faces Canada in a friendly. So, the club’s spring goals will be all about avoiding a drop in league play, but gaining a European spot by bringing the “something special” in Dutch Cup matches.
As for a potential transfer, Altidore played it cool, not saying much at all. After what seemed like some initial interest, we aren’t hearing much lately about the 23-year-old forward.
(The Soccer Today podcast should be up some time Monday; I’ll post the link here when the pod goes up.)
Everton is finding its form, and that has Roberto Martinez with half a mind to keep dancing.
Martinez admitted his Jason Derulo fandom after video surfaced of the Spaniard dancing in a suite this week, and had to admit he felt like continuing the show after Everton crushed Stoke City 3-0 on Saturday.
The Toffees climbed above Merseyside rivals Liverpool on goal differential and into eight place in the Premier League. They are finally looking like the club supporters expected to see this season.
[ MATCH RECAP: Stoke City 0-3 Everton ]
Everton has back-to-back 3-0 wins in the Premier League. Before that was a loss to Swansea City which followed a trio of draws against Man City, Spurs and Chelsea.
Martinez’s club looked fit to score even more after Romelu Lukaku, Seamus Coleman and Aaron Lennon scored first-half goals on the road at the Britannia Stadium.
Look at that face… a living dance hall. Of course we kid, and are even more grateful for Martinez’s personality.
Mauricio Pochettino is playing it cool, but Tottenham Hotspur has a real chance of winning its first-ever Premier League title.
[ MORE: Foxes beat City to stay top ]
Following Spurs’ 1-0 win over Watford at White Hart Lane on Saturday — the scoreline doesn’t reflect how dominant Tottenham were — optimism levels were high.
Four Premier League wins on the spin and six in all competitions will do that.
With Tottenham now second in the PL table and five points behind surprise leaders Leicester City, are they genuine title contenders?
“I feel very proud of the players,” Pochettino said. “We need to be calm. We are in a very good position in the league but the philosophy from the beginning of the season has been to go step by step. We are a very young squad so it is important to keep going and take every game and competition and be ready to compete.
“We need to be careful and always work in the same way. In football you can never stop. You always need to improve and fix a different situation. We still need to be more clinical, we created a lot of chances today but need to score more.We have a good idea of how we want to build the squad for the future and it is important to take this philosophy and deliver it.”
More tellingly Pochettino was also quoted as saying: “In football belief is the most important. If we believe, it can happen.”
In a season where Leicester City top the Premier League, why can’t Spurs launch a serious title challenge of their own with 13 games to go?
[ MORE: 3 things we learned as Leicester demolished Man City ]
As Pochettino mentioned, scoring more goals should be the main aim for Spurs as they had 26 shots against Watford and 66 percent of the ball but only scored once. But with the best defensive record in the PL and the best goal differential, Spurs are right in this title race.
Gabriel Agbonlahor is feeling quite buoyed by his first goal of the season.
The 29-year-old striker helped ensure his side would keep its early lead with a second half goal, and hopes the 2-0 win over Norwich City is just the latest step in the quest to avoid Villa’s first ever Premier League relegation.
[ MATCH RECAP: Aston Villa 2-0 Norwich City ]
Villa is now eight points back of 17th place Newcastle, and seven of the Canaries. It’s still a 4-point journey to 19th, but Agbonlahor and company are taking it proverbially: one game at a time.
From the BBC:
“We are going to keep fighting till the end. That is all the club expects from us. Take it game by game. There is no reason why we cannot escape. We showed fight today. We had a game plan: we defended well and attacked well.”
The Villans are facing a relatively tough stretch of matches with Liverpool, Stoke City, Everton and Man City on the docket.
What odds would you give Villa of pulling off the latest in a long line of Premier League great escapes?
- Magpies climb out of relegation zone
- Baggies continue to struggle under Pulis
- Mitrovic gets winner as hosts control match
Aleksandar Mitrovic‘s first-half goal gave Newcastle United a week above the drop zone in a 1-0 home win over West Bromwich Albion at St. James Park on Saturday.
The Magpies leapfrog losing Norwich City for 17th place in the Premier League with 24 points.
West Brom is now winless in five and sits five points ahead of Newcastle, good for 14th place.
[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]
The Magpies provided an inspired start to the match, piling on pressure and winning a pair of corner kicks. Aleksandar Mitrovic was saved at the goal line by Boaz Myhill in the most clear-cut opportunity.
Craig Gardner won a free kick on the edge of the 18, but Georginio Wijnaldum leapt off the wall to help deflect it out for an eventually unsuccessful corner.
Cheik Tiote scored from close to 40 yards out, but Lee Mason consulted with his linesman before disallowing the goal because Aleksandar Mitrovic was in the flight of the ball and offside.
Mitrovic had the next laugh, though, sprung on a break by Jonjo Shelvey and deservedly finishing his chance past Foster. Newcastle owned a 1-0 lead.
[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]
[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]
Wijnaldum flashed a header over goal of Townsend’s cross from the right, and it was still 1-0 in the 66th minute. Townsend then poked a low shot off the right post moments later, and Moussa Sissoko flashed a prime shot wide.
The Magpies were leaving themselves open to an equalizer, and it’s not as if the Baggies didn’t find a chance or two (though mostly through set pieces).