Thursday, September 25, 2008

Can Any Centre Halfs Please Report to the Manager!

It’s back home on Saturday after two away games, where Charlton will be looking for another clean sheet and not a repeat of the thumping they took from the table-toppers last time at The Valley. If only the penalty in that game hadn’t been given and the team could have hung on, we would be in a pretty good position at this stage of the season, and even better than the table shown on Second Division and Proud’s blogsite.

Venturing south with a not too good record this year come Sheffield Wednesday. We can expect them to face up with a 4-5-1 formation, and simply try to stifle the heart out of Charlton, while hoping to snatch something on the break or when they do get the chance to venture forwards. Of course, the last two away games have seen the Addicks opposition with plenty of chances to attack our heroes, as Pardew has tinkered his way to a position where he is happy for Charlton players to give the ball away as long as the rest of the team defend properly...hmmm.

I’m hoping for two things – one, that Charlton no longer deem it worthy to give the ball away (cheaply) and, two, if they do, that Wednesday are as inept as both Rovers and Forest in trying to get the ball in the back of the net! It must come to Pardew’s attention some time soon that the plan to hold on to a game until later when he can change the formation will fall over at some stage; maybe not in Yorkshire or Nottinghamshire recently, and maybe not at home to the Owls this weekend, or hopefully in the next two games, which may be construed as slightly more important to Addicks fans, where it must also hold tight. Anything less would be catastrophic for the team and the supporters, and maybe Pards himself!

The first thing Pardew needs to do, having announced that the team will play 4-4-2 on Saturday, is to pick a defence. He can concentrate on that mainly because the rest of the team will practically pick itself – Weaver, Sam, Bailey, Holland, Bouazza, Varney and Gray are all shoe-ins in this blogs opinion, though there are alternatives (which I will come to later when we look at who could be on the subs bench). The defence though could be practically anything or anyone, as long as two of the four are Hudson and Youga. At Forest, Crainie and Fortune had to go off injured, and it has been announced that Fortune is out for several weeks now; Crainie may be fit, but hamstring strains normally take a bit more time to heal than a few days or a week even, so I’m not convinced that we will see this Pompey loanee at right back. That leaves a gap for either Yassin Moutaouakil or Jose Semedo. Moots did little wrong before Crainie arrived, so will be eager to win his position back; he will certainly provide an attacking option which could be put to good use in this home game. Pardew may, though, decide to play Semedo at right back, as he did very well in the last ten minutes at Forest going forwards, and has always given his best at any and every stage he has played for the club.

If Crainie is fit, then he could play centrally alongside Hudson, but with that in doubt, the only viable option (provided Semedo isn’t used there) is to play Youga inside, with Grant Basey pushed back to one of his more regular and favoured positions at left back. I thought Youga did very well for the half hour he played at centre back last Saturday, and with a league cup game in that position too this season, that does seem to me to be the obvious choice. Playing both Youga and Basey also gives Pards the option of allowing Basey to take all the dead-ball kicks that we get all match... Oh, and the other Pompey loanee - Linvoy Primus - is not available either.

As for the subs, well Pardew does have a wealth of veritable talent at his disposal; last weekends non-playing squad members – Fleetwood and Shelvey – both scored for the club in a friendly in midweek. Todorov and Ambrose also played a full part in that match and are now considered fully fit. One absentee in midweek was Zheng Zhi, and I do think that this match might be one too early for him, bearing in mind everyone else is fit, and we have other games coming up where he can be eased back in.

This is the side I believe Pardew may have to send out at The Valley on Saturday –

Nicky Weaver
Yassin Moutaouakil
Mark Hudson
Kelly Youga
Grant Basey
Lloyd Sam
Matt Holland
Nicky Bailey
Hameur Bouazza
Luke Varney
Andy Gray

Subs from Elliott, Semedo, Thomas, Solly, Zhi, Shelvey, Ambrose, Fleetwood, Todorov, Dickson.

This really is the chance of a home win, and to look good while doing it, for Alan Pardew’s team; the crowd will expect three points after the last couple of results, and the players will know that they have to perform, or they will face being left out next Tuesday, especially with a plethora of fit and experienced players hoping to get back into the team.

Pedro45’s score prediction is a uniform 2-0 victory.

My one-to watch in this game is going to be Kelly Youga. Always the bridesmaid, and never the bride, the man has the persona to be a bit of a cult hero if he really, really wants – we know that he can play at left back, but can he cut it in the middle of defence if asked? He has the pace, the tackle, and the battling aerial qualities necessary, but does he have the temperament? Last weekend, he reacted badly when wronged by a Forest Hood-ie; he survived by being held back at that time, but minutes later a slightly mis-timed tackle (OK, I’m being kind here…) was rightly punished by a yellow card. That left him on a tightrope for the rest of the game, but he did hold it together, just! I think he can do it, and should be given the chance. It might be for just one match, but we will know at 5pm if he can be good enough or be trusted enough to play there over the next few weeks while other, more obvious, choices for centre back get fit.

This is another three-game week, and therefore another important time for the Addicks; if we can start off well, we might just have a chance of bettering the four points we won from the last such week. It won’t be easy, but it is possible…we just have to believe!

Come on you reds!

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