Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hoops La La!

Not a good week to be a Charlton fan; two consecutive defeats, and the team have slipped down the table to sixth. Add to that disquiet in the ranks about team selection, tactics, formation, and a lengthening injury list that has a number of experienced professionals out for significant periods. The latest injury is a season ending one for Svetislav Todorov. Sadly, Toddy has ruptured his cruciate knee ligament and he will not be seen again this season.

So how can Alan Pardew turn things round and get the side back to winning ways aganst QPR on Saturday? In my humble opinion, he doesn’t have to do too much in terms of team selection, but he does need to be firm with the players and direct them on formation and tactics.

The goalkeeping position isn’t really a problem, even though we are conceding too many easy goals. We can all probably remember the good saves Nicky Weaver has made since August, simply because there haven’t been that many. It’s not like it was with Scott Carson last year, where he made great saves every game and every point we won was pretty much down to him. Weaver seems to have had no (or little) chance with any of the shots that have gone past him, even though soft goals are horrible to let in. There is no pint playing Darren Randolph, good as he may be, when Weaver isn’t making mistakes.

The defence is a problem however, and can directly be to blame for nearly every goal that has bulged (or not) our net. With no experienced left back available, Danny Mills played brilliantly to calm left side nerves on Tuesday and that allowed Yassin Moutaouakil to come back into the team after injury and do a good job on the opposite flank. It was the first time I’d seen Yassin play live, and he started quietly before coming good later in the match. More games and experience at this level will help him progress, though he is better going forwards than defending. Centrally is where the problems really lie; looking back, all Plymouth really did was run at Bougherra and Fortune with the ball. Totally unable to cope, we can expect the scouts present to have reported this back to about every other Championship club! Both have looked quite solid at times this year, but not against teams whose strikers are agile. Hopefully Rangers have a couple of lumbering Carlton Cole’s. The only option available is to play Sam Sodje instead of one of the incumbents. I don’t know if it will happen, or who should be dropped; both have had ‘mares at times so far this season! The one thing I do know is that Paddy McCarthy doesn’t look to be the answer either!

The midfield does look to be settled, and provided they are all fit, we can expect to see Semedo, Zheng Zhi, Andy Reid, and a back from suspension Lloyd Sam strung across the park. The question though is, good as they are going forward, are they giving enough to protect the back line? Sam and Reid have certainly tried desperately at times to track back and cover any opposition attackers, much more so than Ambrose or Thomas generally do (although both have their good moments). So is the problem the middle? We have all been extolling the rise of Semedo, and he does make plenty of tackles and use the ball pretty well. I am concerned though that he may go missing at vital times, being dragged toward the ball out wide when a static central position may be a better option for the team. I still like him and think he is a player with enormous potential; I’m just worried that the goals seem to come from central drives right through where he should be… ZiZi also tackles as much as he can and should, but he does ball-chase a lot, and agin if he and Semedo get dragged away from the middle, there is little protection for Forch and Boogey.

In attack, the loss of the Toddy option means we are left with Iwelumo, Varney and McLeod. Sure, Dickson may come back and help at some point in the season, but he cannot be guaranteed success and more than those currently plying for the team. Sadly, the confidence that Dickson may have is lacking from the three strikers left; Iwelumo tries hard but looks like he doesn’t want high balls into him all the time, while Varney runs the channels well, but has looked a little weary after missing most of pre-season. McLeod is quick, and direct, but missed a hatful of chances early in the season, and his head visibly dropped after his awful pass that led to the winning goal on Tuesday evening. All three could do with a couple of goals to cheer them up!

Tactically, I think Pardew’s flirtation with playing Varney wide has to be dropped (forever) from what we saw against Plymouth. He isn’t the best crosser of the ball, and actually prefers cutting back in from wide left to allow him to shoot right footed. The potential for playing 4-5-1 is there, but that surely cannot be on the table for a home game against a team near the bottom of the table like Rangers.

Where Pardew can help is to instill the team with belief that if they are being bullied (a claim against Wolves) then they feel able to stand up for their collective rights, and dish out some stick in equal measure. We do have experience, and some players who know how to foul! What we don’t want is a whole bunch of bookings like Styles gave for silly little fouls and dissent. If we are being kicked (as Semedo and ZiZi have recently), let’s kick back. If the oppo are being wound up, stand back and smile!

So really, it is about getting the right players in the team, playing to an agreed suitable formation, and with enough confidence to show that some of this team should be playing in a higher league (as they showed in parts of early season games).

This is the team I think Pards will pick for Saturday –

Nicky Weaver
Yassin Moutaouakil
Madjid Bougherra
Jonathan Fortune
Danny Mills
Jose Semedo
Zheng Zhi
Andy Reid
Lloyd Sam
Chris Iwelumo
Luke Varney

Subs from Randolph, Sodje, McCarthy, A Thomas, Basey, Racon, J Thomas, McLeod.

My one-to-watch for this televised match is going to be Andy Reid. Our little Oirish fella has played his socks off over the last few weeks, for both Charlton and Ireland. He looks in desperate need of a rest, but he can have a few days off after Saturdays game, as we have the luxury of a midweek lacking a fixture! We just need one more massive effort from him and with three points in the bag, he can get off home early if that nice Mr Pardew allows him.

Pedro45 has had a feeling for a while now that a team is going to get a pummeling from the Addicks, and I do feel it is very imminent. My score prediction is a resounding 4-0 win. It may simply paper over some of the cracks (the defence for instance), but hopefully it will allow confidence to return and things to start moving in the right direction once more.

Come on you Reds!

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