It does indeed seem that life for us Addicks bloggers is set to get more complicated this season – and Sir Chris has to take the blame. Through the entirety of the last campaign it was 4-4-2 week in, week out. You can imagine the dressing room discussions: “what formation for this one Boss?” “Have a guess”. We were able to indulge in debate over whether Kermorgant should get the nod over Haynes (that one didn’t last long as it turned out), whether Green or Wagstaff should start, and the relative merits of Hollands’ various partners in central midfield. Otherwise it was just a case of trying to find different words to describe yet another glorious victory (I have bought the DVD but still can’t remember any games we didn’t win). Now it seems we’re expected to blow off the cobwebs and try to think about what Plan B or C might look like (and whether Plan A is about to become Plan D).
Of course we can’t yet tell whether formation changes in the friendlies are just testing out possibilities, whether they are motivated by the attributes of those brought in (to which can be added Kerkar, although rather curiously only on a one-year contract), the fact that Hollands has been missing, or possibly to see whether others can thrive in an altered set-up. Powell may have played most of his football for us under Curbishley in a 4-4-2, but that also changed to 4-5-1 when we lacked a decent second striker to play alongside Bent and had the talent in midfield and out wide. Murphy thrived in it in a fashion that he couldn’t repeat in a 4-4-2. So nothing’s set in stone.
Every team needs to be flexible, to be able to respond when things aren’t going to plan, and even to make changes to accommodate the opposition. Last season we could take on everyone (except Stevanage) without thinking about changes; this time around may well be different. My own attitude, for what it’s worth, is that there is no optimal formation in itself, only formation(s) that get the best out of the available talent. We will need Plans B, C and D, but the priority is to be clear on just what constitutes Plan A – and why. I don’t think there’s any real danger of Powell turning into a tinker man and am first to acknowledge that he has forgotten more about formations than I will ever know.
Last season we weren’t exactly blessed with pace, were effective rather than always beautiful (of course that depends on your definition of beautiful, as in this beholder’s eye it amounts to going home with another victory to mull over), but tended to overpower teams, aware that the defence wouldn’t often leak goals (bugger, I’ve just remembered Notts County) and we’d get one or two from somewhere, not least the set pieces. Against higher quality opposition that alone may be sufficient to compete, but obviously you’d expect the points returns to run lower as others will be able to match us in those areas. So let’s experiment away and then work on Plan A, whatever it may be.
At least now the number of new players in matches the number of directors out. I’m not privy to any inside information and have no idea whether there have been disagreements, personality clashes, or more deep-seated issues involved. Presumably Stephen Kavanagh will be bound by some confidentiality clauses, especially as he remains employed by the club, so it’s unlikely we’ll be finding out what’s really gone on any time soon. Nobody can quibble about the effectiveness of the board in backing Powell last season, if not with substantial net spending on transfers then with sufficient working capital for what remains a loss-making enterprise. There would have been no point in the takeover if that capital had not been made available. Slater has shown himself to be a personable and effective front man, while Jiminez has remained in the background. But we know that they don’t provide at least the bulk of the cash.
The owners of the club have chosen an intransparent structure and to not reveal details of all involved. That is a choice, and it’s unlikely to be one made because they are shy, retiring sorts not looking for the adulation of us Addicks. All choices have consequences, in this case a lack of information encouraging speculation and rumours. The board either has to live with this or provide more information. That is another choice for the people involved to make.
Now for me, scribbling away in sunny Lyon (well, it did bucket down when I arrived last night, just to make me feel welcome), the next two weeks will be devoted to meditation and reflection on the merits of different formations ahead of Birmingham and Leicester. To encourage the process it is best to drink lots of Italian red wine (tried bread and water in the wilderness for 40 days but decided it had been done before and didn’t work so gave up after half an hour). I’m sure my partner Suzanne has other plans for a two-week break, but life’s full of surprises and I know my Plan A.