Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Home Bank’s-er?

2010 has hardly got off to a good start for Charlton; despite opening (if lacklustre) wins in the decade against Wycombe and Hartlepool, the wheels have royally come off in the last two matches where home points have been dropped against Orient and Tranmere. In a potential promotion season, that sort of form cannot be allowed to continue. The problem Charlton have is how to arrest it?

Well, we know that the spirit in the Addicks camp is still good, and that spirit should have been bolstered by the news that Akpo Sodje is once more in the squad having been signed on loan from Sheffield Wednesday for the rest of the season yesterday. With Dave Mooney also secured on loan until May, Charlton have five forwards (the others being Deon Burton, Leon McKenzie and Chris Dickson) from whom to fathom out a partnership that starts to hit the back of the net on a regular basis. Izale McLeod is out of the picture at Charlton, with his loan at Peterborough also until May, even though it seems they were keen to send him back to SE7 for disciplinary reasons last week. We also have Kyel Reid on loan for the season, giving us a wide left option, and some balance at last.

On transfer deadline day, there were no other major moves – which in itself is good for Addicks fans – and it also seems that Yassin Moutaouakil is going to be on the wage bill until June as he did not go out on loan once more. The implication of that is that Elliot Omozusi has not been retained on loan from Fulham (though I wouldn’t be surprised to see him return should Moots get shunted off elsewhere in the next few weeks). Dean Sinclair is the only senior professional (if he can be called that?) out on loan now, and so Phil Parkinson has shown his hand for the final 19 games of the season where he hopes to get into the top two positions.

The difference from the early part of the season is the slight change in personnel at the training ground but hopefully still a positive mood; Dickson is now around, as is Mootaouakil, and they were shipped out for the early months of the season. I do hope that their apparently sometimes unsettling presence is not going to affect the rest of the squad, and with Mooney, Reid and the younger Sodje, we balance things out. I also hope that the feint rumours of a falling out between Mooney and Burton are untrue (but which I will come back to below).

So if the spirit looks OK, how about the tactics? Well, Reid did help the team in some respects on Saturday, but to my mind, not in others. Whenever Nicky Bailey or Jonjo Shelvey has played on the left side, they have played in a quite narrow manner. Reid is one who hugs the touchline, and the issue was not that in itself, but how the rest of the team coped with a player being out wide on either side (with Lloyd Sam hugging the right touchline). The main problem for this Charlton team has been ball retention, and often on Saturday, the long cross field pass was preferred (and lost) when a much more simple short ball to the closer winger was a better option. The midfield pairing of Bailey and Jose Semedo must get used to this, and start to take the simple option as a matter of course. Reid and Sam both tracked back well, so we have no problem there, and the full backs (Grant Basey and Frazer Richardson) are both attack minded and offer plenty of support, which is good. I’m not sure how many crosses came into the Tranmere box on Saturday - it was quite a few - but for some reason, Charlton didn’t look at all dangerous from most of these. To me, Burton has been well below par so far in 2010, and maybe the signing of Akpo Sodje will give him the kick he needs to get back to scoring goals again. Whoever plays also needs to work with his partner, be that Mooney or McKenzie (or Dickson, though this is less likely now). When Mooney signed initially, he worked hard and really benefited Burton, but now there seems to be some conflict and a lot of poor body language between the two. They really need to sort things out, and if Burton is not going to help both Mooney and the team, then he needs to be rested. It may be that his hernia problem has reared its head once more, and that needs to be managed by Parky, especially with so many games coming up over the next few weeks.

We have also been tactically short in midfield, where the pairing of Bailey and Semedo has been questioned. Personally, before the signing of Reid, I would have switched Bailey back to the left, with Therry Racon brought into the team, but that isn’t an obvious option now. Playing Racon for Semedo to bring some creativity would not work in my mind, so we are going to have to get used to our centre midfield starting games and being changed if we are struggling to win. If Bailey and Semedo play the easier ball, often out wide, then their own lack of creativity will be less obvious. Racon, Shelvey and, to a lesser extent, Matt Spring offer different options from the bench, and with two wingers starting, and other forwards being available, any switch from 4-4-2 to 4-5-1 or back again is certainly within Parky’s black folder of Charlton tactical options.

So to the Walsall game tonight: with everyone fit (bar Kelly Youga and maybe Rob Elliot), how will Parky set them up? I think he will have no option but to go for the win, and hope that a similar Charlton team play significantly better than they did at The Valley on Saturday. If they don’t, then he should have substitute possibilities that haven’t been disrupted by losing your goalkeeper in the first half. The official website suggests that Elliot may be fit after going off with what seemed to be a leg or back injury on Saturday, but I think that we may well see Darren Randolph included, with Elliot rested for a few more days or asked to do the bench duties.

This is the side I expect Parky to pick for tonight’s game –

Darren Randolph
Frazer Richardson
Sam Sodje
Christian Dailly
Grant Basey
Jose Semedo
Nicky Bailey
Lloyd Sam
Kyel Reid
Dave Mooney
Deon Burton

Subs from – Binks, Elliot, Solly, Llera, Spring, Shelvey, Racon, Wagstaff, Sodje A, McKenzie, Dickson.

Walsall struggled to play any sort of football either side of Xmas, mainly because all their games got postponed during the cold weather. Their now famous braziers stood smoking away on the Banks Stadium pitch, failed to do a job for long, and game after game was called off, twice when visiting fans had already arrived. Charlton were one of the teams to suffer the journey but not a game, so will be hoping to pay the home team back for the inconvenience. Since returning to action after their month off, Walsall have lost twice (both 2-1 home defeats) and scraped a goalless draw at Gillingham on Saturday. When they arrived at The Valley back in August, they looked a very average team that basically came to keep the score down, stuttering to a 2-0 defeat. They have strikers who have goalscoring reputations (Parkin, once of Swindon, and Byfield, once of Rotherham), so will need to be watched, and an on-loan centre half who is very tall (think Northwich…). Hopefully the Addicks players can cope with anything thrown at them and come away with all the points?

Pedro45 really wants the boys to respond to a poor run of results by going out and winning, but my fear is that the loss of confidence may take a while to shift, so I am predicting a 1-1- draw. Charlton are capable of winning (in much the same way that they beat Brighton or Orient or Stockport or Hartlepool)), but sometimes luck is against you; please not tonight!

My one-to-watch is not going to be Lloyd Sam for a change, but this game will be Sam Sodje. The older Sodje (left) was unlucky to score an own goal on Saturday, and you could see him desperately trying to put that right soon afterwards. Provided he stays on the pitch (he's been sent off twice this season so far…), he is one of the better central defenders in this division, but he now needs a run of games in the team where he can show this. He is likely to have a big centre forward to mark during the game and a big centre half to mark at corners, so his springy jumps will definitely be needed tonight. He also has the knack of being threatening in Charlton attacks, and I’m hoping he can do a job tonight and keep himself ahead in the Sodje family goalscoring stakes.

After three home games come three away games, and if the pressure of the Charlton support is lifted it might make the team play better. This is one of those games that, due to circumstances, will have veritable few Addicks supporters in the ground; I’m sure they will give there committed support, and I hope that the players respond and give them something to cheer. It won’t be a surprise for the Addicks to win tonight, but then again, if we lose, I doubt many will be shocked either. Hopefully, the team can gain the right result, and start to put a winning run in the record books.

Up the Addicks!

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