Thursday, 30 October 2014

Three appointments.....

Three managerial appointments this week in the Championship that should make us reflect for a moment.

First, Kit Symons. Symons is 43 and he has spent eleven years as an assistant manager at Palace and more recently Fulham, both clubs he played for. Kit looked incredibly smug last week when being interviewed after sweeping us aside. He looked like a man who knew he had cracked it and sure enough, after pursuing a host of other options, "the panel" Fulham appointed (ideas above their station) to select the new man finally conceded and gave the nod that Symons might be a lower risk than another big name manager. He has the players to compete this season but they were same players who lost seven of the first eight under Magath. They also took Fulham down and you have to wonder if the honeymoon period might be short. I can't see Fulham sacking another manager this season but unless he makes a good fist of things, he will do well to start there next season.

Secondly, someone has been brave enough to take over the poisoned challace at Birmingham City. The man in question is none other than Gary Rowett who guested for us briefly back in our Premiership pomp but whose career ended prematurely whilst at the Valley due to injury. He went on to play and manage Burton Albion, which I suspect will be a better grounding than second-fiddle at Palace and Fulham. Trouble is, I think Birmingham's troubles are far more fundamental than picking and motivating a starting eleven. Can't see Gary there come August.

Finally, ha-ha-ha, the joke that Lee Clark would jump at the worst managerial job in football having been shown the door at St. Andrews, has actually come to pass. Clark had four years at Huddersfield where he needed a long time to prove he couldn't deliver and in two years at Birmingham he did the same, although I suppose his CV says "2014, saved Birmingham from relegation," although it won't say "flukely by the skin-of-my-teeth." All I can say is that this looks like Clark's last throw of the dice and I am betting he won't make the end of this season.

So, whatever your opinion on Duchatelet's network model, let's be grateful that we have a manager who looks relatively comfortable in his role and performing at an acceptable level. I will gladly settle for another ten months stability.

Wednesday ahead

After what seems like two weeks, we finally have another match approaching in the shape of a home game against Sheffield Wednesday. Following the disappointments of Craven Cottage it will be good to get back to the Valley, especially if we can muster anything approaching a full team. Wednesday are doing well enough under Stuart Gray and sit three points behind us in the table.

It looks like Johan Berg Gudmundsson will be fit enough to start and there is hope that Igor may also be ready although I am guessing he might start on the bench. After his spirited and more incisive showing at Fulham, I hope to see Charlton-boy Karlan Ahearne-Grant get a start and open his account which would give him an huge confidence boost.

Wednesday will, no doubt, bring another lunking side down to try and dominate the physical contest and I am looking forward to seeing Stevie May in the flesh. My Aberdeen pals are big fans of Stevie and I am hoping TBH and Bikey can shackle him.

Elsewhere this week, news of two former Addick strikers. Big Chris Iwelumho has hung up his boots at the same time that Bradley Wright-Phillips is lined up to collect the Golden Boot in the MLS. Big Chris made his mark at Charlton but he was hardly prolific. He went on to be one of those strikers who was recruited by a whole host of clubs for a short period as they tried to strike it lucky. His goal ratio of one in five was sadly never enough for anyone to hang onto him long enough even if he did manage one shy of 500 appearances. For me I will never forget his costly howling miss as a substitute for Scotland against Norway on his international debut which cost us world cup qualification. Harsh on Chris but that's what people will remember him before, in a similar way to the brilliant Peter Bonetti.

Bradley Wright-Wright-Wright on the other hand must be very happy with life at the moment. He failed to cut it for us in the Championship and I was disappointed to see him leave. He took a contract with the New York Bulls for barely living wage in the States and the promise of big bucks per goal. That has paid off handsomely as he has just equalled the MLS scoring record of 27 in a season - go Bradley!

Friday, 24 October 2014

Fulham 3 v Charlton Athletic 0

I had every intention of being there this evening but was surprised to find out on Wednesday morning that we had sold all of our tickets, bar restricted views. That wouldn't have bothered me, ordinarily, as I would have been happy enough to sit in the neutral section in the Putney End. Trouble is, I didn't really fancy it as I had zero confidence of a result and it was on the box. I was swithering all day but in the end apathy got the better of me.

On reflection I am glad I didn't go as we were mince in the first-half. I honestly thought it would end 4-0. We were second best and the thinness of the squad was evident for all to see. However, I was very surprised and impressed by our battling second-half display and that augurs well for the rest of the season. 

We lacked a cutting edge tonight. George Tucudean tries his best but he is not the best footballer in the world. With no-one alongside him it's an even harder ask. Franck Moussa is not a striker and it's painful watching him huff and puff behind the out-and-out forward when he is so clearly out-of-his-depth. Karl Ahearne-Grant at least brought some penetration to the attack when he came on and whilst he looked short of scoring we could at least bask in the promise of a seventeen year old who showed no fear.

Roland Duchatelet has to act now if he believes there is any realistic chance of promotion. We are clearly two players short - one in midfield and one up-front. Our season will be finished without Igor Vetekole.

How ironic after the stats all season to see us dominate second-half and still fail to score. The visiting fans were in good voice all evening, which was encouraging, and hopefully that will carry forward to the next few games as we seek to consolidate our promising start. An away defeat at Fulham might mot look such a bad result come May but it does now after their pathetic start.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Those Stats so far this season

It's been on my mind for a while but after last night I had to get the calculator out. After 13 league games the situation concerning the amount of possession, number of shots and number of corners is as follows;

Percentage Possession

In only one match so far this season have we had more possession than our opponents and that was the goalless home draw against Middlesbrough when we had 54% to their 46%. Our average possession in all outings is 41% versus 59% which bucks the trend hugely when you consider we have won 5, drawn 7 and only lost one.

Shots on Target

This perhaps emphasises the effect of more possession more dramatically. We have managed 111 efforts on goal averaging 8 or 9 game, whereas our collective opponents have amassed 192, averaging 14 or 15 a match, getting on for double....

Corners

The corner count is 42 for Charlton and a whopping 110 for them which shows how much pressure we have absorbed.

It's points that count of course but just how much better might we be doing with a more competitive midfield that could offer greater protection to the defence and ensure we spend more time in possession and pushing to at least level the efforts on goal and corner counts.

Come on Roland, take a punt my son, you'll get your investment back and get more enjoyment watching us play.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Charlton Athletic 2 v Bolton Wanderers 1

This evening's match threatened to be another nail-biter given our injury problems and it didn't disappoint. We were second best once again in the stats department to our lowly visitors but we somehow ground out a win and bounced back from the disappointment of Bournemouth.

Our starting eleven was predictably weakened with only Tucudean upfront and the hapless Moussa tucked in behind. Midfield was again a huge struggle although Yoni Buyens was much better first-half and Johnnie Jackson got forward in support second-half to notch another priceless winner. Jordan Cousins   needs to bring some composure to his game because he isn't adding enough value at present running around like a headless chicken. Unfortunately, Bulot and Moussa both carried on from Saturday and were wasted shirts although Moussa did put in more running this evening. Neither can complain at being substituted.

Once again the back four held us together although Rhoys Wiggins remains well short of his best. Bikey and Ben Haim were outstanding and Lawrie Wilson competed for man-of-the-match with a fine left back display, especially first-half when he got forward to much better effect.

It was difficult to see where a goal was coming from in the opening 25 minutes. George Tucudean either fell over or dived with every contact and was in danger of being booked. Bolton were playing everything down our left through Feeney but we looked well briefed as Cousin was clearly under orders to double-up with Wiggins and stop the supply. It worked.

Lawrie Wilson brought the home support to life on 25 minutes with a typical supporting run that involved four other players making one-touch passes under pressure and resulted in Buyens freeing him on the overlap. He raced clear but his cross evaded Tucudean, was brought down by Cousins and set-up for Jackson but he spun and played an air shot. Bolton countered but we recovered and broke back and Buyens managed to play a ball up to Tucuden who, for the 
first time in the match, managed to play the ball and stayed on his feet. He turned with the ball and beat his marker in one move and managed to stab home past Lonergan. 

After that we failed to build and instead fell back into the pattern of  the season so far, largely defending a lead.

After the break I asked a mate behind me if we could finally net a second and kill the game. Within ten minutes we had done it - Tucudean holding the ball up well and feeding Jackson on the charge to slot home beyond a scrambling Bolton rearguard. A two-nil lead and we thought we were home and dry. Instead, we only managed to hold that for a few minutes before Dean Moxey drilled home a fine low shot from the back of the box through a crowd of players. After that it was hard viewing but once again we managed to grind it out.

The win puts us back in touch with the leaders after another pile of draws this evening. We go to shaky Fulham on Friday for a match I am dreading given our current squad shortcomings, our style of play and the appearance of the Sky cameras. I am praying the victory lifts the players between now and then and hope we may have one or two fit enough to do a return justice.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Network testing...

The ongoing upheaval at Standard Liege is raising allsorts of questions about Roland Duchatelet's network model. Manager Guy Luzon has had to step down following Saturday's abandonment of their home match against bottom of the table Zulte Waregem as a result of rioting SL fans in the stadium. Roland Duchatelet was barricaded into club offices as police kept angry fans at bay.

By contrast, Charlton fans have largely been won over since the end of last season as Roland has splashed some cash and we have had a good start to the season. To date we have remained unaffected by 'the network' in the sense that we haven't lost a single player to another club or suffered in any other way for the common good. The question right now is, how long will that last?

Standard have appointed a temporary manager/coach but there remains a threat that we could yet lose Bob Peeters or key playing assets as Roland looks to settle the ship. Hopefully sense will prevail but unless Roland has had a big change of plan that he hasn't told us about, that threat remains. He is expected to be in SE7 tomorrow night for the visit of Neil Lennon's rejuvenated-looking Bolton Wanderers.

The team we could put out tomorrow is looking threadbare and it could be a quite an uncomfortable and challenging evening. Solly, Gomez, Gudmundson and Vetokele could all be missing. That would likely see Wilson back in the corner, an unlikely looking forward pairing of Tucudean and 17 year-old Karlan Ahearne-Grant. More importantly, we are desperate for a solid midfield showing that protects the defence and supports the front two so we can put some sustained pressure on the visitors.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

AFC Bournemouth 1 v Charlton Athletic 0

This goes down as yet another one of those occasions when our team managed to ruin an otherwise great day out. An enjoyable run down on the train from Waterloo and a few pints in joyous expectation before we all made our way in the sunshine up to Dean Court the Goldsands Stadium.

I had failed to count to seven when buying the match tickets and so one of us had to watch the game from the home end behind the goal to our left - sorry again Pete. He would have had a good view of Bournemouth's winner after three minutes when Pugh strolled in from the left flank and teed Callum Wilson up to poke home. A simple goal and our players reaction was worrying. It didn't look like anyone was bothered and frankly, they weren't. We failed to test Artur Boruc in the Cherries goal and only actually managed a couple of lame efforts in the whole match.

Bournemouth looked miles better than us and that was due very simply to a better work ethic, more movement and better passing. One-nil flattered us and only Stephen Henderson prevented it from being embarrassing. Karlan Ahaerne-Grant got the full ninety minutes and he, at least, tried his best but he is very raw and has a lot to learn. 

Our midfield was over-run once again. Buyens and Jackson were left chasing shadows and we had no effective width. The fact that Jackson didn't return for the second-half said it all. Unfortunately, the alternative is Moussa who I am afraid to say is not good enough for this division. He has had plenty of opportunities but he loses possession practically every time he gets the ball. He  doesn't look like he has any pace or can shoot either. Having to play Moussa questions the depth in our squad and the fact that Igor Vetokele also didn't return for the second-half underlined that because his replacement was Calum Harriott. I don't know what has happened to Harriott but he seems to have forgotten how to beat a defender and when paired alongside Moussa they look very similar and equally poor.

Igor has an Achilles injury and I understand that Johan Berg Gudmundsson is not fully fit again either. He played like he was still only 70%.

Rhoys Wiggins obviously dreads returning to his old ground because he lowers his game for every visit. Yesterday he managed to fail to control the ball on several occasions, presumably for the amusement of his former fans.

I felt a bit for Ben Haim and Bikey who did their best. Bikey was also pressed into an attacking role towards the end but that was never going to cut it. Bournemouth stepped off the gas with ten minutes to go because they knew they were home and dry. Fifteen hundred Charlton fans did their best to motivate their side but got nothing in return. It was one of those days when I saw plenty of familiar East Stand faces and all raised their eyebrows to me in summary of what we were witnessing. 

How we respond in the next two matches will tell us a lot about the rest of the season. Suddenly the second and third-bottom sides look like banana-skins.