Monday 12 October 2020

Time To Make The Pieces Gel

Some of the pieces on and off the pitch are it seems being put in place. I’ll confess I don’t know what ‘technical director’ means in practical terms (and I can’t say I’ve found out from the various comments since his appointment), but we all welcome Ged Roddy and hope he will both gel well with the other key individuals and make an important contribution to our progression.

It is reasonable to suppose that, having declared that he would be a hands-on owner as sole director and CEO (which seems to be in keeping with the way he runs his other companies), Thomas Sandgaard preferred Roddy and no effective number two to bringing in Peter Varney to effectively run the club on a day-to-day basis. That’s fine. As Varney himself commented it’s important that TS runs Charlton in a fashion that suits himself. There has to be some concern that everyone ends up reporting to TS, which can cause confusion if roles and responsibilities overlap in some areas, but any such problems will just have to be dealt with. We have had enough instability to last for a very long time and would not look favourably on anyone rocking the boat at this stage. If TS finds out further down the line that he can’t manage to be hands-on for everything, let’s hope he realises that in good time and changes tack then.

It’s a little tempting to say that this all sounds rather like Duchatelet’s ‘my way or the highway’ approach, as outlined by Miere. The difference, however, is that in addition to Duchatelet’s ego he had a daft plan and inadequate people around him yet still expected supporters to just turn up and cheer. If there is some parallel to be drawn it might instead be that Duchatelet’s low-grade network plan was scuppered by the entirely predictable undermining of the Fair Play rules; now along comes TS with a plan to get us back to the Premiership in a short space of time just as the plan is being outlined to reduce the number of teams in the Premiership to 18. If that goes through it will of course make it somewhat more difficult to get into the promised land.

On the pitch, the arrival of Chris Gunter fills the right-back hole while Omar Bogle makes it three available forwards, according to Lee Bowyer; he did say for Sunderland we had only one available fit forward, which seems to suggest that Josh Davison is either not fit or not yet viewed as a first-team option. If that’s the case it points to perhaps one more forward being brought in and Davison going on loan for a while.

Another forward might seem to be a luxury, but not if we are serious about a promotion challenge this season. With Conor Washington, Chucks Aneke and Bogle we have strength and options but are perhaps lacking someone who does his best work in the box, a poacher. A marquee forward signing can be the final piece in the jigsaw, as it was with Yann Kermorgant for Sir Chris and before him for Curbs both Darren Bent and Clive Mendonca. Now I don’t know if Yann can be talked out of retirement for one more season (at the least once The Valley is full again hopefully he will be invited over so we can give him the send-off he deserved), but the addition of someone likely to notch the 20+ goals a season that would probably put us in promotion picture would look good to me.

We don’t know yet how Bowyer is going about formulating the way he wants to see us play. He wasn’t giving clues in the recent interview, saying: “what I’m trying to do is get the personnel so I can change in game; I’ll always start with the formation I think is right but I’ll always have a Plan B”. Sounds fine, but I’m a simple soul who believes that the best teams know their strengths and play to them, whatever they are, rely on partnerships in key areas, and have a strong spine from back to front. There’s no perfect formation in football and undoubtedly flexibility is required. The team under Powell which ran away with this division was just so much better than the others that it could afford to pretty much stick to Plan A throughout – although even then we began that season without Kermorgant and reliant on the goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips.

Without an outright goalscorer you do look for a good contribution from midfield. And that might explain why Bowyer is looking for more end-product from the likes of Jonny Williams. He clearly expects a double-digit contribution (over a full season) from a match-fit Marcus Maddison and for others to at least chip in.

It is just too soon as well to be drawing conclusions about who Bowyer sees as his ‘go to’ players. As for a spine, the last promotion team had it with Dillon Phillips, Patrick Bauer, Darren Pratley, and Lyle Taylor. Once it’s resolved whether Phillips is staying or going and whether its him or Ben Amos the first part of the spine looks fine. Jason Pearce ought to be the rock of the defence but we don’t have a return date for him, presumably either Pratley or Ben Watson will be the midfield anchor, while we have to wait and see how the three forwards gel (and of course whether it’s a pairing or one up front that Bowyer will favour).

After confirming the signature of Gunter, Bowyer reportedly said that he still wanted another five signings. With Bogle secured that still means room for more. And let’s face it, if we do get another four in we will as it stands have a pretty big squad, unless some depart for pastures new. Bowyer’s task so far this season has been to get enough bodies on the pitch; now it turns to making the requisite parts work.

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