Some rise and some fall. Jenkinson and Shelvey at least now have England shirts to compensate them for the pain of no longer playing for Charlton, but it seems Hollands has joined Wagstaff (plus Sullivan and Clark) in the ranks of those deemed surplus to requirements and/or in need of improvement if they are to thrive at Championship level. Wagstaff always looked like he needed to add to his game (some of the winger’s basics) to make the grade but does have time on his hands; Hollands is more disappointing in that last season he was more than one star among many. If I hadn’t voted for Morrison for Player of the Year I would have put my tick against his name (while being perfectly happy for Solly or Wiggins to get the award). He was steadfast, matched up with a string of partners through the campaign, and chipped in with goals. If he comes back to us stronger and with confidence rebuilt, terrific (and I see from the club site that Sir Chris is saying that he still has a future with us); if he doesn’t, I hope he thrives.
The writing was I guess on the wall when the entirely necessary drafting in of another full back, Seaborne, turned into a rather more surprising influx of three, including holding midfielder Johansson. I have noted that others’ match reports have sometimes flagged poor performances by Hollands which I confess I didn’t pick up on. Often I felt the midfield in general hadn’t functioned, not helped by a lack of movement around the players involved, but maybe I wasn’t focusing enough on why (or just suffered from the rose-tinted glasses that I'm happy to never entirely take off). If Powell doesn’t think that reuniting him and Stephens on a regular basis (perhaps with Dervite or Johansson just plonked in front of the defence) will work well enough, at least for now, that's fine by me.
Absent for now Kermorgant, Wiggins, Hollands, Wagstaff (although I see that he is apparently back at The Valley after not impressing at Orient) and with Wright-Phillips having to wait for another chance to prove he can be a 20-plus a season striker at Championship level, the tweaking of the squad that we were assuming during the summer has turned into something more revolutionary. Powell’s pre-season intention to try to have Plans B and C ready and available has been superseded by the injuries and what we are finding out about the squad at this level. We must be on Plan Q by now, with presumably R about to come into play at the weekend.
We began the season (or at least I did) thinking in terms of a solid, reliable defence, a reasonable if untested (at this level) midfield, and a bit short of quality back-up options up front. We now have a defence with enough options in the centre (Morrison, Cort, Taylor, Dervite) and at least now two full-backs. The two emergency options used at full-back against Middlesbrough and Cardiff (Kerkar and Morrison) can’t be said to have worked (which is no reflection on their abilities in their rightful positions), but in essence, with Hamer continuing to fend off Button, all that has changed now is Wiggins dropping out. It still looks like a better than average unit at Championship level, especially when Morrison is in the centre.
The midfield last season was more than adequate, but after our style of play became more basic (which is certainly not a criticism given the outcome) with the introduction of Kermorgant it was more functional than dynamic. If we didn’t blow them away early we tended to wear teams down, with the midfield not blessed with pace but usually winning the battles, getting the set pieces, and contributing more than a fair share of goals. I think it’s been apparent this season that more was needed. We have had options aplenty, just not yet a stable, successful combination (Dervite and Pritchard against Middlesbrough quickly became Jackson and Stephens against Cardiff). Basically Hollands is out, at least for a while, Wagstaff and Green are currently subs/squad players, Jackson has adapted back to a more central role to accommodate Kerkar (and without Wiggins to bomb past him Jackson wide-left has sometimes looked peripheral), Stephens is first-choice, and the wide-right slot seems to be taken up by Pritchard and Haynes. With Dervite/Johansson available as a holding player, we seem to have the numbers, with perhaps a need now for a more settled line-up to develop greater understanding.
The midfield choices and formation have been heavily influenced by the injuries to Kermorgant and Fuller (and before them Haynes and Cook). There’s no question that if it’s a lone striker its Hulse and that, with goals in consecutive games, Haynes is ahead of Wright-Phillips if it’s a front two. With Fuller back in contention, at least we’re back up to four or five – but with no reason to alter the current first-choice as Hulse provides a nice foil for Haynes. With another away game coming up, this does seem like a case of it not being broken so don’t fix it (injuries allowing).
My regular Amsterdam trip for work this week meant I missed the Bristol game and I won’t be able to get to Burnley either. I’m going to have to wait for the Huddersfield/Peterborough games to get my next fix, but there’s nothing especially wrong with that if we keep winning the games I don’t see and all I can look back on is the Cardiff match.
However, I am obliged to note that while our first back-to-back victories of the campaign have settled the post-Boro nerves my adopted French team, Lyon Duchere, suffered their first reversal of the season at the weekend. The first 10 games of the season produced seven wins (including one against PSG B) and three draws to give them a six-point lead at the top of CFA Groupe B even at this early stage. But a 0-1 home defeat to Villefranche, who move up to second, has trimmed it back to five. Villefranche made it out of CFA2 a year before Duchere and, much as I like the town, hopefully this result will just prove to be a blip in Duchere's drive to make it into National (effectively the third division). I’m already starting to look at the fixture list for early 2013 to time my next visit to Lyon. My partner Suzanne is better than me in the planning stakes and booked a while back for another couple of trips to London this year, including Xmas when hopefully our game against Ipswich will eradicate her memory of the Boro match.
If there's any benefit to be taken from that game it's that Suzanne was miserable for at least the 24 hours afterwards (before she headed back to France). I didn't think about it at the time, but I realise now that it amounts to proof positive that the lucky girl has become a true Addick.