Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Week Off from Singing the Blues (laryngitis rules OK!)

The next Charlton game in this oh-so-eventful season is away at one of the pre-season divisional favourites, Birmingham City. Not an easy game then, on paper, but actually, where Alan Pardew is concerned, he has nothing to lose going into the game. After a point last week at Plymouth that could have been three, the pressure seems to have been lifted off his shoulders somewhat, and backed by the fact that he and other club officials have been singing his virtue at every opportunity recently, it does look as if Pards is going to be given a chance to sort out the mess he has created. Whether he is capable, in the time Charlton can afford, or not, is open for debate, but it is probably safe to say that the Redvolution will not be taking place after this weekends match; win, lose, or draw.

The manager obviously won over a few hearts and minds at the recent supporters club meeting, where he answered questions succinctly. However, it is tough when you are a fan of a football club to ask one of your heroes (and yes, anyone employed by Charlton is my hero, even Rick!) a tough question like – when are you going to let someone else have a go at cleaning up the mess you have made. The one question from the floor that got anywhere near the mark – Are you going to resign? – was always going to be followed with a categoric denial, and a call to arms. With ample media training at the disposal of all football related staff these days, Pards would probably have answered these questions in a way that made him sound confident, in control, and with purpose, thereby hiding all the very elements where he has fallen foul over recent months.

It was a triumph in hiding the problems; well done to the club – all of us fans love you again!
But the trouble is we still have the same problems with the tactics, team structure, and confidence, that we have had most of the time since Pardew took over. In two years, he has failed to deliver.

So where do we go from here? Well, with Ambrose now off on loan at Ipswich, that takes one enigma out of the equation; with Zheng Zhi also unlikely to feature this side of Xmas, the balance of the side is changed with no apparent player able to play "in the hole" behind the forward(s). The strikers themselves are now only likely to get any sort of service from the flanks, due to the lack of midfield creativity, and so that is the area where Pards needs to concentrate.

Step forward Charlton’s wingers – Lloyd Sam and Hameur Bouazza. The fly in the ointment though could be Pardew’s willingness to have Luke Varney on the pitch, even though our man from the Midlands is going through a crisis of confidence that even Sarah Palin would struggle to cope with. Varney has been tried down the channels, through the middle, out wide, and still he has failed to handle the pressure that a goal or two would relieve. As Pardew publicly blamed him for the initial goal conceded last week ( a key area that every forward needs to cover!), I do think that his starting position in this match will go elsewhere.

That means that Andy Gray is almost certain to get another game, which is amazing considering that Pardew said he would not be available for the next three weeks or so just prior to the Barnsley home game due to personal problems.

This is the team I expect Pards to send out in search of a result at St Andrews –

Nicky Weaver
Yassin Moutaouakil
Linvoy Primus
Mark Hudson
Kelly Youga
Jose Semedo
Matt Holland
Nicky Bailey
Hameur Bouazza
Andy Gray

Subs from Elliott, Basey, Crainie, Wright, Shelvey, Wagstaff, Dickson, McLeod, Todorov.

It’s quite an interesting reserves bench shown above, which if you remove Toddy from the equation, are all pretty young (though not quite to the Arsenal League Cup team level!). One day, eh?

The Blue Noses will be seeing this game as the one to get their season back on track; without a win in three games, they have slipped back behind midland rivals Wolves, and with Reading hot on their heels and banging in the goals, they will not want to drop too many more points at this stage of the season. Some of the older Charlton players will be able to re-acquaint themselves with Marcus Bent, who is just about capable of making the starting eleven for a Championship side these days. The obvious danger man though, is James McFadden, who could give Yassin a bit of a troublesome afternoon if he allowed time on the ball.

I would love the Charlton revival heralded last week by fans and the like to continue from Devon to the second city, but I just cannot see anything other than a defeat. The manner of the loss is what will count again, as nobody really expects Charlton to gain anything but a few bruises from the match. Pedro45 score forecast is a 2-0 defeat.

The only way around this is for the team to play very solidly, and frustrate the home forwards. If you can compete and be strong against Bent, he is unlikely to be able to lay off decent ball, but the issue is are Primus and Hudson capable of doing so? The midfield will also need to shine, as that is another area where Brum have been solid this year; Holland and Bailey will need to compete and win the area from Carsley and the like. My one-to-watch this week is Nicky Bailey; due a storming game, if he is the player that can step up from a lower league and drive Charlton up the table, then this is the sort of game where he needs to start to shine.

From these comments, you will see that the key is to stop them playing, while making the most of any chances that do come Charlton’s way. Sadly, this has been the Addicks problem all season – we have not been able to stop other teams, and it has been easy for them to stop us; chances have been squandered, and any luck that has come the way of Charlton has been wasted.

Maybe it is time that this all changed? Maybe, just maybe, if Pardew has been able to maintain any of the confidence that came into the team last weekend at around 4.45, and if the side play without fear as they are not really expected to get anything from the game anyway, and if we have a whole heap of luck, then we could just about grab a draw. I’d love to think so.

The Redvolution is coming, just not yet!

Up the Addicks!

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