Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The Season Starts Now

I don't often indulge in 'this is the team I'd pick for Saturday/rest of the season' as we can have no idea what goes on through the week off the pitch (who is carrying knocks/who's been hitting the bottle etc) and because having never earned a crust in the game I'm usually happy to defer to those who do. But there's an exception to every rule (like Palace surviving a season in the Premiership).

Start by acknowledging the situation: we are fully embroiled in a relegation fight, with no cushion; we have a 16-game mini-season to play starting now, one which includes away trips to the three teams currently occupying the relegation places. Forget the form table, forget when it was since we last won, the season starts now with a clean slate. No points targets for survival (yet). For me this also means no thoughts of player rotation (other than necessary rests), no thoughts of 'this formation for this game, try something different next time' (and it goes without saying no input on team selection from anyone not there every day); we need clarity and yes, if you like, back to basics. Decide on a first-choice line-up, tell those not in it - including those who perhaps expected to be shipped out on deadline day - to be ready to play their part - and if their reaction is poor tell them to get lost unless and until the attitude changes for the better.

Also accept certain other realities. The head coach is one that few supporters would have put at the top of their list to replace Peeters, the owner and the board's attitude to engagement with the fans inspire shall we say mixed emotions; but they are in situ and every Charlton fan wants to avoid a return to the third-tier. This means for Luzon accepting that your only chance of love/appreciation is to replicate what Riga achieved last season. You can't rely on the fans to inspire the players at present, but you put out a side with purpose and commitment and they will respond positively. Don't feed them BS, we all know that last night's first-half showing was shockingly dire and that you can't realistically expect to give a decent team a two-goal start, or to feel disappointed to lose by the odd goal when your team has coughed up enough chances for them to have doubled their goal tally.

So to the team. We don't have a forward capable of playing on his own, nor do we have a midfield combination that suggests we'd benefit from a five-man set-up, and the time isn't right for trying five at the back. So it is 4-4-2. If Henderson is fit, he comes back, asap. He looked assured before his injury, Dmitrovic looks a decent keeper but with some doubts about dealing with high balls, Etheridge has had his chance for now. Solly and Wiggins are the first-choice full-backs, with Gomez and Fox/Wilson their back-ups.

Central defence is less easy, largely because we've no idea whether Johnson is sharp enough to start a game. If he is, he comes in (of course in an ideal world Morrison would still be here). The assuredness of Ben Haim and Bikey-Amougou in the first half of the season has gone, Onyewu by all accounts didn't take his opportunity at Middlesbrough. If Johnson is ready, the choice to partner him is just which of the other three complements him best (and on that front I really can't say). It's a gamble on his preparedness and sharpness, but it's also time for a change. Norwich were decent enough last night but that doesn't explain the number of chances we let them in for. Johnson describes himself as a leader, and a defence has only one real leader/organiser on the pitch. That suggests to me that for now Ben Haim may be the one to give way and for Bikey to get fully focused on the job in hand.

The midfield four for me is perhaps surprisingly straightforward, assuming that Veljkovic is out of the picture for now. Jackson and Cousins aren't a perfect combination but with Buyens now looking a pale shadow of the cultured and effective player of earlier in the season (I was only mildly surprised last night that he didn't pick up a second yellow) and is due a rest; whether it's fatigue or mental attitude I don't care, at the moment he's not doing the job. We know that Cousins' best position is central midfield and we know that Jackson will give his all, and probably chip in a goal or two. Plus the emphasis has to be on protecting the defence and clean sheets. Berg Gudmundsson continues to impress me, even though last night wasn't one of his more effective games. He does need to increase his defensive workrate and with him on one side we need outright pace on the other, which of course means Harriott, with Wilson available for fresh legs.

I don't think anyone questions the front two pairing. Again, not an ideal combination for the long term, but last night Vetokele and Watt together showed that they can work together, make chances for each other, and unsettle defences. I'm disappointed that Ahearne-Grant came into the picture and disappeared from it so quickly. I don't know where he stands now, but absent a loan signing he and Church are my back-ups. Church is a decent player, just not a prolific goalscorer. Starting with both Vetokele and Watt means not much in the way of a Plan B, but we simply don't have that luxury.

Who are the spare parts? Bulot blotted his copybook last night with a poor display (which begs the question regarding the thinking behind his selection), LePoint I simply have no idea about, Moussa remains sidelined.

So for me it's: Henderson/Dmitrovic, Solly, Wiggins, Johnson, Bikey-Amougou, Berg Gudmundsson, Jackson, Cousins, Harriott, Vetokele and Watt; subs: Dmitrovic/Etheridge, Gomez, Ben Haim/Onyewu, Wilson, Buyens/Bulot/LePoint, Church, Ahearne-Grant.


19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've tried finding fault with your line up but can't BA. Suspect that most Charlton fans would agree. Suspect that Luzon won't do this and will prove again why he shouldn't be our manager.

The toughest call is centre back. Our strongest position in the early season is now our biggest conundrum. Is Gomes mature enough to start there in a relegation battle? We instinctively feel Johnson must be the fighter we crave in that position, but at the moment we have no idea what he will do in a Charlton shirt. Getting that centre back pairing right may well decide if we stay up.

Pembury Addick

Anonymous said...

People mention the 'new coach bounce' and it seems that the players like TBH and YB that have played for Guy L. before are the ones going backwards. History? They need to start playing for one another as a team, not a bloody network.

Anonymous said...

Agree almost completely with that team, if I had to choose one myself that would be it. We need to get back to playing players in their right positions, notably here Cousins and Harriott. I'm not a big fan of Harriott, in the absence of anyone else though he has to start left midfield. My biggest conundrum is Gomez. He is a wonderful player, one of our best based on what little we've seen of him, rarely, if ever, makes a mistake. It does seem daft not to be playing one of our best, and own. We need heart and fight too, time for local talent to shine, they know what we're all about. I feel we need to find a place for him somewhere, could do worse than play him centre midfield at the moment. I loved Buyens we he first arrived, he now looks totally one dimensional and has gone backwards. Still desperately need a big strong target man who can head the ball and hold it up though I'm afraid. Until we do that, I fear the worst.
Maidstone Addick

DisciplineBlog said...

Agree re Gomez and he's hardly getting a sniff, yet 19yr olds get chances in the Prem.

Blackheath Addicted said...

Thanks for the comments. Fair points re Gomez, no question he's impressed so far. When I saw him in the youth cup he was at centre-back, he's covered at full-back and now as a holding midfielder. Just feel I'd still give Cousins the nod close a chapter on him playing out wide.

One other thing that's been sadly missing and which needs to return, a smile on the players' faces, some indication that they relish the task and enjoy playing together. Not easy when you're down, but that - not complaining at each other or going into a shell with a hangdog expression - shows character.

Anonymous said...

Pretty much spot on. My one change from your line-up would be Gomez for Bikey who has lost his assurance of earlier in the season and looks both too slow and too casual. Centre half for a youngster is possibly a risk against big lump experienced pros, but worth the risk as he is a class act

Anonymous said...

Joe Gomez. A little while ago Ian Wright was laughing at Charlton, for not playing Francis Coquelin when we first had him. "Charlton they must have been top of the Championship, not to have played him". Now look at what we are doing to one of the best prospects the club has had. The lad will want to go, if you don't give him the chance he deserves and who can blame him.

MKAddick said...

I would advocate 3 5 2, with a back three of TBH, Gomez(he MUST play) & Johnson, allowing Solly & Wiggins to do what they do best, go forward. There is an element of risk, with balls played behind our wing backs but Gomez, particularly because of his pace & composure, can nullify that threat. If we don't up our chance creating stats we won't pick up the points we need. This system allows a fluid central three of Jackson Cousins & JBG, with Watt & Vetokele up top. Thus a positive approach from now on, with this set up, that I believe will keep us up. If 4 4 2, I would largely agree with your take on things, albeit TBH for Bikey.

Blackheath Addicted said...

Could work MKA. My only concern would be if it took a few games of playing that formation to get used to it (and if there wasn't an immediate improvement we switch back again and cause more confusion). I hope Luzon has the good sense to talk to the more experienced players about formation and tactics. Thrash it out with them, decide, and then stick to it.

Anonymous said...

as someone else posted on charlton life it doesn't matter a jot what we as fans think, feel or wish for. it ain't gonna make one iota of a difference to those who make the decisions.

what does astound me and I agree with everyone else is how bloody stubborn our managers are in persisting with playing players out of position, I recall it maybe starting with curbs, as he was always fond of players who were " versatile " and its continued on.

it's as if, well it hasn't worked the last 99 games but it may work on the one hundredth

for christsake are we the only ones who can see this? what the hell do they teach them at managers school, " if playing players out of position doesn't work the first time, try try again "!

Dave said...

I think Lepoint had a tough introduction. He came on with the crowd restless and was desperate to please which lead to a couple of heavy touches for which he's been written off. He is big and strong and makes good use of space. Deserves another go....

Dave said...

I think Lepoint had a tough introduction. He came on with the crowd restless and was desperate to please which lead to a couple of heavy touches for which he's been written off. He is big and strong and makes good use of space. Deserves another go....

Anonymous said...

I don't get these calls for a "big target man" - the effectiveness of such a player is largely mythical, if you ask me. None of our greatest strikers (Leary, Hales, Super Clive, Benty) fit the "big target man" category. What we are crying out for, surely, is a creative midfielder who can read the game, and make things happen. Poyet fulfilled this role last season and probably single handedly ensured we stayed up. I don't see anyone who can step into those shoes now, and that, along with several other factors, leads me to conclude we will be going down this time. We knew when Family Guy was appointed that he had issues with several of our players - Watt, Buyens, Bulot and Ben Haim were mentioned. Can we be surprised that some of those players are now playing so poorly? As far as I can Family Guy has no real credentials in terms of coaching ability. He doesn't seem to know what he is doing in terms of team selection, knowing which are the best players in which position, and utilising his substitutes during a game. Last season Riga gave a masterclass in relegation avoidance. He made it clear who his first choice 11 were, he stuck with those players. He recognised which games were winnable and which games were not. With Poyet in the engine room, and Harriott and Sordell coming good at the death, Riga pulled off the great escape. This season, after all that has happened, after the issues (whatever they were) with Peeters, and the farcical appointment of Family Guy, I can really only see one possible outcome. Looking at the upcoming fixtures, I'm sure most Charlton fans will be fearing giving Wigan and Millwall three points (we've been fans long enough to know this outcome is almost a dead cert.) Add to that, the return of SCP's Huddersfield, and that looks like another defeat to me. Brentford and Derby I am sure will be too good for us. After all that, we really could be on the mire. After the heroics of last season and the optimism of Peeters and the new season, it's hard to credit we are in this position. COYR.

Martin Cowan

Blackheath Addicted said...

(Sent by Ben, didn't seem to publish so I've copied it in)
Well it was all pretty constructive apart from the anon above Blackheath Addick and it makes a refreshing change to read these purposeful posts, but well done that anon, you had to go and spoil it just like the rest of the boo boys and their depressing drivel.

Blackheath Addicted said...

(Reply from Anon, also didn't publish)
Still don't get it do you Ben. I never have or would never boo the team but I still hate RD and the direction he's taking us in. The opposition to him represents a variety of different people opinions and behaviours. Some unaccetable the same as the support. You on one hand are applauding this site where Blackheath Addict and many others have been very critical of RD in the past because he and they care about our club.
I't not that simple son, have a think about it.
F**k RD COYR

Blackheath Addicted said...

Thanks again guys. Re LePoint, could well be right, I really just don't know. Like the other loan signings, the problem could be lack of match practise, you just don't get guys in who are fully up to speed.

Martin, re creative midfielder, and/or a driving box-to-box player, would be desirable, just going on what we've currently got. My guess is that in the loan window more would have come in if we had had offers for some to go. Re the 'big target man', agree not essential, but Hales always benefited from having first Horsfield then Flanagan alongside him (when he went to Derby and had no partner he floundered), as did Clive.

Re my views on our owner, they have not changed since last January/February. I am surprised by the speed of the wheels coming off and exposing the shortcomings. I hope the players step up to the mark as they did under Riga (and had done under Powell until last January's debacle).


Anonymous said...

ok blackheath send your team selection into Roland and guy along with your thoughts on how we can turn this around and see if you get a reply let alone an affirmative.

but the truth is as fans we do have a lot of potential not only to voice our displeasure but to change things. we showed that by being crucial in getting the club back to the valley.

if we want things to change why not on mass boycott games but will we do that no!

I thought it was a fair sized crowd last night considering the shit performances we've been dishing up these past few months, which goes to show what suckers we are sometimes, that we're prepared to put up with it week in week out!

Blackheath Addicted said...

Anon, don't doubt we're just whistling in the wind. The reported quotes from Luzon after Tuesday included: "... so we need the fans to be with us. It is the only way to carry on and get a result." Pass that one on to our owner.

Anonymous said...

every manager says the same thing blackheath and if they want our support how about the players playing like the professional their meant to be and give us some decent football to watch, not the we can't be ar@sed stuff they've been dishing up!