It’s fair to say that for the first time in a while there are some serious selection issues for Parkinson to consider for tomorrow, more down to the shape of the team than injuries and availability. As ever, it should be down to the manager and his people, who are obviously far better placed to assess who is looking fit and sharp in training - and to judge which formation would be best suited for a home game but one against a side that the manager has said likes to play a more open and adventurous game than Oldham (which is not saying much). So my one hope is that whatever team takes to the pitch, the crowd back it – not to start whining about the choices made if we’re not 2-0 up in the first 10 minutes.
It’s not so long ago, when 1-0 down away at Orient, that the Charlton fans started up the chant of ‘4-4-2’, just before we equalised (and went on to win the game). It’s fair to say, as others have, that an earlier change to that set-up would have been a better option last Saturday. But this is another game, against different opponents, and the selection options are in my view nowhere near as simple as ‘it’s a home game and we need two outright forwards on the pitch from the start’. We have played some excellent football – and won most games – with Burton effectively on his own and Shelvey in the hole. It’s just that teams are doing their homework now, some we have played recently have been better than those early on, and we haven’t been able to produce the same fluidity as before. If Parky feels that we still can, and that the key players are raring to go, starting with 4-5-1 and being ready to switch if things don’t go to plan still looks like a good option to me.
The key issues would seem to be first, whether Burton, who has faded of late, is really fit and up to task to play on his own; second, whether Shelvey is tired and needs a rest; third, whether Semedo is ready to start. If the answers are ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘yes’, I would have Semedo in for Spring and the rest as before (the only decision for the defence is whether Sodje comes in for Llera, which given that Big Mig was capable against Oldham would be down to Parkinson’s assessment of Huddersfield’s forward strengths/weaknesses). Spring has done nothing wrong (according to colleagues he was poor away at Colchester, but that was a bad day all round) and in other circumstances would merit a starting place. But in other circumstances Bailey would not be playing wide left. The cliché about a boat sometimes going faster with a crew composed not necessarily of the fastest individual rowers holds good. Semedo seems to bring the best out of Racon and to provide the muscle in central midfield to enable us to dominate teams; I’ve always tended to see Spring as the natural back-up for Racon, not Semedo. He’s been asked to do a more defensive job than normal and has done it well and without (apparent) complaint. But if the best guy for that job is now available again he should come back in.
It has been asking a lot to play Shelvey unceasingly, but he is crucial to the 4-5-1 approach. It seems to me that he’s been a little out of sorts in recent games and giving him a rest would be no surprise. In that event it’s a case of selecting the best forward combination, not necessarily just bringing in McKenzie to partner Burton. It would be brave of Parkinson to pick McLeod from the start (and if he did the last thing we would need would be groans from the crowd – he would need all the support we could give him), given the horrible misses against Oldham, but again two up front is about partnerships and aside from the finishing those two looked good together. To me it would be any two from Burton, McKenzie, McLeod and Tuna – but if Shelvey and Burton are considered fully fit the question may well not arise. After all, its a lot easier to switch to 4-4-2 than change from it during a game.
We all have our opinions and whatever choices Parkinson makes will be open to doubt. But as ever I’m in favour of keeping any reservations for post-match reflections, not to be aired a few minutes into the game. It is a match that we do really need to win to get things back on course – and to send Suzanne back to France happy. As she is from Lyon (and her hairdresser is a relative of Karim Benzema, who according to the reports is a closet Addick and best buddies with Youga), Kelly, please keep the overhead kicks an inch or two lower and the shots after taking on the entire defence an inch or two inside the post. Otherwise more of the same please.