Monday, 14 January 2008

Stuck Inside Of Mobile

So mobility is the keyword now (apologies to Dylan), with Moutaouakil and Youga replacing Mills and Powell (God bless him) and Varney and McLeod in for Iwelumo plus A.N.Other. Have we stumbled upon the system that gets the best out of the players available? Of course it’s too soon to say, after its use only in home games against a weakened West Brom and a Blackpool side that found itself 2-0 down after 10 minutes. And even if it proves to be the answer we still need Plans B and C for the inevitable injuries, suspensions and loss of form. But so far so good, with the quality of football significantly better.

The new approach still allows us to play with two wide men (even with Christensen going out on loan we have Thomas, Sam, Ambrose and Varney). It would be nice to get a few goals from those starting out wide. More important, with Varney and McLeod creating more space Zhi has looked far more effective than before in central midfield. Perhaps also he is benefiting from being alongside Holland as they learn to play together. And of course with energetic full-backs comfortable playing the ball forward the attacking options increase.

The enigma as ever is Reid. There was a discussion a while back on how we would cope if he were injured. At the time I suggested that, while losing him would of course leave us weaker, it needn’t be a terrible loss if we adapted and played at a higher tempo without him (I was assuming Ambrose and/or Racon would come into the equation in the centre). It seems to me that when Reid got injured we tried to carry on in the same fashion. And in the four games without him following the West Brom defeat (two at home) we had three draws and a defeat, scoring one goal in each of the games. There were other factors of course, including two red cards. But perhaps we underplayed the effect Reid has on the team by not quickly accepting that without him we needed to play in a different way, with more pace. It isn’t rocket science that with your best and most creative player rather slow, if he drops out you reassess the whole style and look to take advantage of the situation to emphasise other possible strengths.

This is not to suggest that we should be indifferent as to whether Reid stays or goes in January. He is a key player for us. And if he goes to Sunderland for a net £2m plus another right-back it would look to me like poor business. Alternatively, if he goes for £4m-plus and we are able to use the money – plus that for Walker and (hopefully) Faye and even Bent (although I assume Wigan will just keep him on loan) – then so be it. These are decisions for Pardew and the board.

It is very tough on Iwelumo to find himself on the bench, having strived manfully on his own through injury and awful service. It must be very frustrating for him to get across to the other players that just because he’s a bit big it doesn’t mean they have to lump hopeless balls in his direction all the time. And as soon as we decide to play better football, the end-result being better quality service to the forwards, he finds himself on the bench. That said, I hope he takes the lesson on board that playing up front in a 4-5-1 still requires mobility. Beattie gave a master-class against us earlier in the season.

I hope we do now have the makings of a settled defence, one that can improve as a unit through the rest of the season. The full-backs, at least for now, pick themselves (with Sankofa/Semedo and Basey/Powell as the cover). McCarthy’s return is a big plus and to my mind gives us good cover in central defence, even if the overall quality is not that high. For me it’s McCarthy or Sodje, alongside Bougherra or Fortune. And McCarthy is the only one of the four who seems prepared to lead the defence.

In midfield Semedo is ready to cover for Holland. Suddenly Zhi is looking indispensable – and irreplaceable. Holland and Reid in central midfield in a 4-4-2 is far too risky and short of pace. If Zhi were to drop out at the moment the options would seem to be Ambrose or Racon – or reverting to 4-5-1. Ambrose had his best game of the season in the hole against Ipswich and on Saturday reverted to being peripheral when out wide. Racon I just haven’t seen enough of to make any sort of judgement. Up front, if pacey and mobile forwards are the order of the day we need to have an alternative. Dickson is the obvious choice unless and until there are January signings.

The bottom line is that tomorrow night’s meaningless cup tie against West Brom can be used to test out some of the players who we may well need in the current set-up. This suggests a run-out for Racon and a full game for Dickson. If the latter is to play an important role this season we need to give him more than a cameo 10-15 minutes to show what he can do. Arguments can also be made for including Sankofa against West Brom. We all know that Watford is a far more important game.

Finally, it would seem clear from the Blackpool programme notes that Pardew and Varney are underlining the message that the drive for promotion starts now and that we all have a part to play. And they’re right. It will be no good to us at the end of the season to say ‘I told you so’. It means accentuating the positive whatever happens, at least for a time. So, my friends, it is time for me to abandon my usual level-headed, impartial and reasoned, perhaps a tad cynical, approach to life and to dive headlong into the world of accentuating the positive. Well, I’ll try anyway.


Anonymous said...

Its interesting that you, and I, and probably many more, view the cup tie as a such a low priority, that we feel it can be an opportunity to experiment.

One theory is that winning the cup this year would be more beneficial than getting promoted. Winning a major trophy is a dream come true, and would enhance our profile and coffers to enable us to build next season and enter the Premiership the season after on stronger basis.

Even if we just have a good run to the quarters it means money - £1.5m I think I recall from the accounts.

So why am I so indifferent to the Cup whereas 10 years ago I used to love it?

If you offered me promotion or winning the cup I'd take the latter - I just know that all the stats say no one out side the top four have won it for so long it just ain't ging to happen

Pembury Addick

Wyn Grant said...

Pards has said that he is looking for a loan berth for Racon.

Blackheath Addicted said...

If I thought we had a bat in hell's chance of winning the cup - and getting the European place - I would happily give up promotion. But what would our pipe dream be after that? Sorry, forgot the positives bit. Saw the comment about Racon, perhaps also Sankofa, maybe going on loan. Disappointing if it suggests Racon is that far off being ready for a first team spot, while I thought we would need Sankofa as right-back cover.

Anonymous said...

No chance of promotion or any cups this season or for many more. Lets get real-we are a mid-table\top six side at best. You can't patch up a limited team with a few million.

Enjoy being a Charlton fan (40 years for me) but we are out of the races unless some serious money is invested.

Anonymous said...

That last comment is about as honest as I have read anywhere about this team.

A top six finish would be as good as one could hope for.

We are a mid table side, limited budget, limited ambition.

40 years a fan... you must have a thick skin. I'm going there 37 years meself.

Blackheath Addicted said...

I have my moments of doubt too. And there's no denying that on the basis of the first half of the season a play-off place would be the best we could hope for. But it is a new set of players still finding their way (and best system), so there are good grounds for expecting improvement, especially after the past few games. Also, barring major fresh investment, this season and next decide whether we return to what we were for most of my time supporting Charlton or whether last season can become a blip in our sustained growth. We all want the latter (don't we?) so any contribution we can make towards achieving it has to be worth it. I don't want to look back at the end of the season and conclude that we could have done better.

Anonymous said...

Post WBA match Pardew says that Dickson needs to work on other parts of his game. Frankly if he can stick the ball in the net I don't care about his defending, linkup play, singing ability or anything else for that matter