Thursday, February 18, 2010

Caught Between Two Stools

It does seem that you are either in one camp or the other at present – Charlton need to sort themselves out by either regrouping behind a 4-5-1 formation and ensure clean sheets, or they should go 4-4-2 and concentrate on winning games by scoring goals. You win games by keeping clean sheets and scoring goals, so lets take a look at both options:

With the players that Charlton have at their disposal, a 4-5-1 formation is not hard to favour. Charlton’s strength over most of the games played up until now has been their midfield, and with players like Nicky Bailey, Therry Racon, Jose Semedo, Jonjo Shelvey and Matt Spring able to play centrally, and with wingers Lloyd Sam, Scott Wagstaff and Kyel Reid supplying the width, there are plenty of options. The biggest issue though is that the players who started the season playing this way have been worn down (and in some cases worn out!) and it is unlikely that we could switch back to the same guys who played those first half a dozen games without upsetting many others. This may have to happen, but would Nicky Bailey continue to be happy playing out on the left wing? Can Jonjo Shelvey continue to get forward as he did in August and September and play up alongside and in front of the lone striker? Are Racon and Semedo in good enough form to warrant inclusion? And what do we do with Reid, Wagstaff and Spring? If we agree that Reid should be in any starting line up - even though he was not on Monday – then that means playing Bailey centrally. But can Bailey do the attacking role that Shelvey had pinned down early in the season. I’m sure he could, as he is such a good footballer that he will adjust to however he is asked to play. It should be remembered that it did take him time to adjust to playing on the left wing, and if he was now asked to play that much further forward the worry is that he may lose that ability to arrive in the right place at the right time, which is what he has now. I am one who doesn’t think Bailey is best suited to this role, and nor do I think he should be played as the holding midfielder, instead of Semedo, with Shelvey and Racon the more forward of the midfield. The whole point of this formation is to stop goals and protect the defence, and we all know Semedo is better at that than Bailey is (or any other Charlton player). Then the choice for that lone striker role needs to be thought out. Deon Burton did a great job early in the season, but then he got his hernia problem and he really hasn’t been the same player since. In recent games, Burton has been completely overwhelmed by whoever is being asked to mark him, and though he put in a decent cameo at Swindon, this was sandwiched between abysmal displays at Walsall and Bristol Rovers. Akpo Sodje was tried as the lone frontman at Swindon, but this was hardly a success either, as very little decent forward ball came out of the defence in that game. Akpo will do the role, and run his heart into the ground, but it may not be like it was in late summer. Dave Mooney isn’t very suited to the role, and nor is Leon McKenzie, the only other option, so the choice has to be between Burton and Akpo Sodje. If I were to pick a side to play 4-5-1, here are the midfield and attack – Semedo, Bailey, Shelvey, Sam, Reid, and Akpo Sodje.

The 4-4-2 choice of formation is another that throws up many options within those players available. It’s Sam or Wagstaff on the right, and either Bailey or Reid on the left, then a straight run between Racon, Spring, Semedo, Bailey and Shelvey for two central positions. I don't see Jonjo doing a job out wide, and if he did, then aren't our natural wingers a better option? In attack, perm any two from the four strikers on the books. With a 4-4-2, you can either send it out to be attack minded, or defence minded; my view is that when we are playing at home to, say, Yeovil, like we are on Saturday, we should be attack minded, but when we play away at, say, Millwall, we may well decide to be a little less adventurous. It’s quite easy to accomplish with just a slight adjustment to who plays, and shouldn’t upset the team balance as some of the recent hysterical tinkering from Phil Parkinson has. My attack-minded midfield four would comprise of Sam, Semedo, Bailey and Reid, and my defensive option would be Sam, Semedo, Racon and Bailey. If we do play two attackers, it has to soon be time to give McKenzie a start in a game. Who knows what a run of ten goals or so over the back end of the season would bring, and I cannot see any of the other options being able to do that, can you? Burton is looking tired and worn out; Akpo is looking bemused and unsure, desperate for a goal; while Mooney is probably not sure what day it is after that clash of heads – maybe someone should tell him he’s Robbie Keane and see if that works? My own opinion is that you play either Burton or Akpo, alongside either Mooney or McKenzie.

The defence meanwhile, needs to do its own job and start protecting Rob Elliot a little more. It is great to have Frazer Richardson (left) back, but sometimes he goes walkabout, and he should have enough experience to know when he cannot afford to do that. Sam Sodje is trying very hard, possibly too hard, and on his day he is such a commanding centre back; it’s just that he hasn’t been on top form recently. Christian Dailly started the season so well, and it was great to have a defender who could do just that, defend. Now Dailly is having to chase quicker forwards and losing the race, and he is another who looks a bit tired. The pneumonia he had at Xmas obviously hasn’t helped him much recently.

At least at left back we have a new face who will start the game against Yeovil on Saturday - Johnnie Jackson, once of Spurs, has joined on a months loan for a month to play instead of Grant Basey. It is good news that Basey hasn’t broken his leg as feared, but as someone said, sometimes a break can heal quicker than the ligament damage that Basey has got – we will see. With no news of Kelly Youga being close to a return, Jackson will at least allow young Chris Solly some respite, and he is a cultured player from what I remember of him. Notts County appear desperate to get anyone on a decent wage off their staff at the moment, so Jackson may end up staying longer if Youga doesn’t recover, or if he does well.

This is the side I would love Parky to send out at The Valley on Saturday in the hope of cheering us all up –

Rob Elliot
Frazer Richardson
Sam Sodje
Christian Dailly
Johnnie Jackson
Jose Semedo
Nicky Bailey
Lloyd Sam
Kyel Reid
Akpo Sodje
Leon McKenzie

Subs from – Randolph, Solly, Llera, Racon, Shelvey, Spring, Wagstaff, Burton, Mooney.

Yeovil come to SE7 having already taken a point from the Addicks this season. The weather down in Somerset on that day will go down in folklore, and the clothes worn may yet have to dry out. The wind blowing straight down the pitch made it a game that was played directly in front of the visiting supporters, and made each half quite one-sided, such was its veracity. I doubt it will be that bad this weekend, and certainly not from the forecast (which isn’t too bad actually), but Charlton had enough on that day to draw with ten men, and almost go on to claim all three points. Yeovil’s scorer that day – John Obika - is no longer with them, having returned to Spurs, and in fact, Yeovil have only won three times since they scraped that draw back in November (twice against bottom club Wycombe…). One time Ipswich youngster Bowditch is the goalscoring threat that Charlton will need to watch, but it looks like they may well come to play for another draw, and will be a team that needs breaking down.

Pedro45 is going to forecast another win for Charlton –surely our luck will change soon? This time, I will stick with a 3-0 scoreline, and hope it very much comes true. Yeovil have been scoreless in three out of their last four games, and it’s about time Charlton got to the end of the match with more than one goal between the teams.

My one-to-watch in this match is going to be new boy Johnnie Jackson. I don’t normally pick new arrivals but Jackson could be a very useful addition, not only in defence, but also when going forwards as he packs a good shot and has good dead-ball delivery too. He has been playing regularly so should not need too long to get up to pace, and I doubt he will have too much of a threat coming at him, in this game at least.

I still believe that Charlton need to go for it, and not rely on others for results; a positive team choice, playing a positive formation will bring a positive response from the crowd on Saturday. It has to be the way.

Come on you reds!

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