Thursday, February 04, 2010

Gone for a Burton

Charlton go into Saturday’s match against Swindon in pretty desperate straits; sure, we may have only lost three games this season, but the current form is woeful, and only two wins from the last eight games is not good, especially when you take into account high hopes that we might win all of those games. This may seem like an over-reaction, and maybe it is, but if the Addicks are to chase a place in the top two – rather than grind out a play-off position – then the team must get back to winning ways at Swindon.

I’ve thought long and hard about what might be wrong, and it is very easy to point out the failings of one or two players who are either off-form or simply never good enough in the first place. But that is about the only way to explain Charlton's current form - it isn't team related, it is player related.

Ever since Andy Reid left Charlton, the left side of midfield has been a problem. While Nicky Bailey did an excellent job there for 25 matches either side of the summer, he wasn’t comfortable, and neither was the management. Bailey’s best position is in central midfield, but with surplus players for those roles, Bailey was shifted wide. Now we have Kyel Reid to play wide, the requirement for Bailey to move again is gone, so where else have the team suffered?

Left back has been an issue ever since Kelly Youga stupidly kicked that Bristol Rovers player after clearing the ball back in November. His knee injury seemed innocuous at the time, but he hasn’t played in the three months since, and now it looks like he will be out for at least another month too. Grant Basey is, in my mind, a more than adequate replacement; he may not be the quickest defender, but he does have a sweet left foot, and when on form, is as good as any winger we have when crossing the ball. The problem is his defending and general loss of confidence, which has now seen him dropped in favour of Chris Solly. Solly seemed to do a decent job at Walsall on Tuesday but is he a better long term prospect on that side of the park (I’d always thought he might be fine at right back, but on the left I’m not so sure)? It would be stupid of Parky to drop him after one game, so Solly will definitely be in the team on Saturday.

The biggest problem that Charlton have though, especially when compared to our competitors at the top of the league, is the lack of a natural goal-scorer. This shortage was covered up early in the season while Deon Burton knocked in a few goals, but, apart from penalties, Burton has stopped scoring and this to my mind is the next area of concern that Parky should address. Burton didn’t help himself by getting sent off in the home game against Swindon, but the simple fact is that he has failed to score from open play since 5th December (against Southend), nine games back. I now think that the hard decision has to be made to drop Burton, especially while other attacking options are available. Dave Mooney has come in for a lot of criticism, mainly because his recent partnership with Burton hasn’t worked, but at least he has knocked in couple of goals since Burton's last header hit the net. With Akpo Sodje now at the club, and likely to play so that he can win a contract at the club next season, Parky has options. These also include Leon McKenzie whose is still yet to start a game for Charlton since joining last August. Maybe it is his time now? Chris Dickson, meanwhile, now looks out of the equation once more, which will not cheer him one bit.

So if I was Parky, which I’m obviously not, I would pick a midfield four of Sam, Bailey, Semedo, and Reid, with Mooney and Sodje up front. This might seem hard on both Wagstaff and Racon, but to me this would be our best team currently, both from an attacking and defending perspective. However, I don’t pick the side, so here’s the eleven I expect Parky to send out at The County Ground –

Rob Elliot
Frazer Richardson
Sam Sodje
Christian Dailly
Chris Solly
Nicky Bailey
Therry Racon
Scott Wagstaff
Kyel Reid
Akpo Sodje
Deon Burton

Subs from – Randolph, Basey, Llera, Spring, Semedo, Shelvey, Sam, McKenzie, Dickson, Mooney.

Strange isn't it, that if you added the injured Youga to that bench, you actually have a whole team that could do a job in this league...

Swindon have been lucky recently; not only did they see two Charlton players sent off against them just after Xmas, but they were able to meet Leeds on the crest of their slump and give them a 3-0 walloping too. They will be thinking that now is exactly the right time to be meeting Charlton, and if they can repeat their other recent home wins, then they will be just five points behind the Addicks with three games in hand. They have won nine of their past twelve matches (drawing two), and haven’t dropped any points at home since mid-October (6 matches), almost four months ago. The biggest threat they have is the dual strike pair of Austin and Painter – who both scored in the Valley fixture – and young gun Austin has just signed an extended contract in an effort to keep poachers away. If the pair were playing for Charlton, I think it’s fair to say we might be top of the table! There defence can be dodgy, and Southend scored two late goals to draw with them on Saturday, so it isn't a forgone conclusion, hopefully.

Pedro45 has little confidence now in the team, based on current form. I know that this will get better at some stage (pllllease!) but I’m not sure that this is the time yet, so I am going to forecast a 2-0 loss. I do hope I am wrong, but there isn’t all that much to give me hope at present. Parky has got to this stage of the season still not knowing who his best team are; apart from Youga, everyone is fit we are told, so to make four changes in a game as he did in midweek smacks of desperation. I would love nothing more than for it all to click into place and for the Addicks to run out comfortable winners, but I just cannot see it.

My one-to-watch in this game is going to be new winger Kyel Reid. The East Londoner has been a breathe of fresh air in the last two matches, and he should get better still as he gets fitter and more used to playing for all 90 minutes. He is skilful and doe have pace to burn; importantly, he is a prime example to Lloyd Sam of how to attack his full-back and get a cross in early (not beat him fourteen times and then have the strikers standing still when the ball finally arrives in the box). I’m hoping that Reid can get better and maybe get his first goal for the club quite soon, as he had plenty of shots in midweek but all were off target.

When you reach bottom the only way is up, and I hope that my mood about Charlton is on the rebound at last. I for one really don’t like play-offs, and I hope Charlton don’t sit back and think that all will be well if they finish between third and sixth; four teams go in but three come out unhappy. Both Leeds and Norwich are catch-able if the team goes on a run, and where better to start than put Swindon back in their place, well behind us. The fixtures start to get harder as the season goes on, so an improvement in form is due.

Up the Addicks!

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A decent summery of what appears to be a universal opinion. But in many respects, that's what worries me the most. Not only has our failings become obvious to everyone (most notably the opposition, you would have to assume), but we are clearly no nearer a solution (plan B, C, whatever you want to call it). I wonder whether Llera could play at left back? Herman made the switch from notable centre-back to left back very well. Just a thought...
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