Sunday, November 21, 2004

Back down to earth

Just in case any of us were getting carried away with two wins and seven goals, we were promptly brought back to earth by another soporific away performance. I probably wasn't alone in being optimistic about the possibility of us securing a point, but by the hour mark it was clear that I should have stayed in bed. The 2-0 scoreline flattered us enormously and it could well have been another hammering in Lancashire with some more clinical finishing from United.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect was conceding a goal so close to half-time (though I suspect it wouldn't have changed the overall outcome). As with the Arsenal game, we looked relatively comfortable until a soft goal changed the entire context of the game, forcing us to be more expressive thus leaving gaps at the back. However overall we were lightweight and off the pace, none more so than recent starlet Jerome Thomas who barely got a touch.

Having been comfortably beaten by Liverpool, Arsenal and now Man Utd, a decent tally of 18 points from 14 games implies what most of us probably already knew ie. we are in a mini-League of ten or so teams, with the most optimistic outcome being 5th place and the most pessimistic 15th. It has all become rather boring in truth but the gap in wealth and resources within the 'Premier' league makes it entirely unsurprising.

Monday, November 15, 2004

New formation suits the squad

Two wins in a row, seven goals, strikers scoring.......suddenly the Palace debacle seems a long time ago. However those fans that are asking the Curbs critics to eat their words are missing the point. The more level-headed critics (including myself) argued that it was time to blood some youngsters and drop Kevin Lisbie. The introduction of Thomas has clearly exceeded most fans expectations, and Lisbie was dropped against Spurs, and it seems he hardly endeared himself to the fans against Norwich.

Where Curbs deserves credit however is by realising that the fluid formation which was used in both victories suits the squad that we have far more than a more rigid 4-4-2. In my opinion we only have two genuine out-and-out strikers at the club, namely Bartlett and Jeffers, with the latter out of favour it appears at present. Meanwhile we have four pacey players capable of devastating runs into the channels ie. Johannson, Lisbie, Rommedahl and Thomas. However with two strikers up front, the ability of the team to get the ball wide and probe these areas is constrained in a 4-4-2 formation because it puts too much pressure on the two central midfielders when the play breaks down. Hence Rommedahl in his brief appearances has largely disappointed due to his need to constantly worry about defending first, and attacking second.

Instead, by sacrificing a striker for an extra man in central midfield (Kishishev), we suddenly have a highly fluid formation which can switch from 4-3-3 when we are pushing forward to 4-5-1 when we need to defend in numbers, but the wide men have the pace to break from deep in the latter anyhow (witness the fourth goal against Norwich as a great example of JJ's pace). Moreover it allows the full-backs to probe forward too, again knowing that Kish, Holland or Murphy will drop deeper as a result. It cannot be a coincidence that we have suddenly scored five goals in two games directly from crosses from the flanks.

Moreover, the squad is loaded with players who can make up the three in central midfield, with Hughes, El Karkouri, Konchesky, Stuart and Euell all capable of taking the place of the current incumbents.

It certainly beats watching the boring 4-4-2 with its narrow midfield and constant pumping of long balls up to strikers who are unable to hold it up. Using a lone striker in the current formation is not a defensive move because of the ability and pace of the players around him. Suddenly I find myself excited about the prospects for us now that Curbs has finally realised that it's better to fit the formation to the squad than the other way around. I'm positively salivating at the thought of Rommedahl returning to the team at some point, freed from his defensive shackles and terrifying full-backs.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Beating Spurs is always so sweet...

Beating Spurs is always especially sweet for this overseas Charlton fan given that I was brought up in Enfield, Middx firmly in the heart of Spurs country. The fact that we have now avoided defeat in six consecutive games pleases me even more, though our record of conceding four goals three times at the Valley in the same fixture, is sadly a useful response for those Spurs-supporting mates that I love winding up.

Perhaps what pleases me the most is the unparalleled ability of their fans to believe that they remain a 'big five' club despite having failed to make any impact on English football for over a decade. Indeed as I write this blog, the football-loving fans of Burnley turned out in their droves to watch the mighty Spurs visit Turf Moor (only 10,000 actually - Ed.). Infact, more fans turned out for the visit of Ipswich on Saturday. And these fans knew that Spurs would bring their first team (since they remain one of the few teams that bothers to take this competition seriously). It's safe to assume that more than 10,000 would have turned out to watch Liverpool or Man Utd reserves than the Spurs first team. "Big club? My a*se", as one Royle may have commented (not Joe).

I wonder at what point Spurs fans will realise the football bandwagon has moved on and they are not on it? The former 'big five' included Everton I recall, but their fans don't seem to retain the same delusions of grandeur.....perhaps it's a London thing? Meanwhile, just across North London, the mighty Arsenal move onward and upward. Indeed, one could have made a case that at the time of Denis Bergkamp's move to Arsenal (which arguably marked the start of their progress), Spurs and Arsenal were broadly equivalent in terms of size and expectations. He was bought by Bruce Rioch after all. Yet less than a decade later, Spurs can't fill their stadium for a home league game whilst the 'Emirates' stadium takes shape next to Highbury. You have to laugh. A decade of mismanagement......Ardiles, Gross, Francis, Graham, Hoddle, Pleat, Levy, Sugar.....and what about some of those fine players that have graced White Hart Lane? Redknapp, Poyet, Edinburgh, Sherwood, Taricco, Keller, Thatcher......not occasional squad players these.....regulars all of them. Quite how they managed to persuade the likes of Defoe and Robinson to jeapordise their careers remains a mystery to me. Fortunately the chances are they won't stick around.

The attempt to impress fans by bringing in Santini has backfired horribly. The club had little choice but to offer the job to Martin Jol having spent the summer defending the wisdom of a three-pronged managerial structure, and the personnel therein. He may succeed of course. But how long will the board give him given that he wasn't their first choice by definition? How will fans react then and who would take the poisoned chalice of the Spurs job? Martin O'Neill?! Not a chance.

One of my most realistic Spurs-supporting mates describes the club as 'rotten to the core' (he long ago gave up his season ticket) - it's the most apt description I have heard. Managerial turnover, supporter unrest, average players.....Leeds were no different in 2003/4 and their fate is well-known. When Charlton fans moan about their board or manager (this fan included), it's worth remembering how bad it could be.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Kerry by a whisker...

America goes to the polls on Tuesday and it could barely be closer. Personally, the thought of four more years of Bush is not worth contemplating, but I've a sneaking feeling that Kerry has just about done enough. The undecideds tend to break towards the challenger, and funnily enough the inclement weather forecast is more likely to benefit Kerry in my opinion (can't imagine those elderly conservatives bothering to come out to vote in the rain). Look for Kerry the key states of Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida and perhaps spring a huge surprise in Indiana.

Not sure how Charlton would be affected by the result. I wonder how Mike Ammann is voting?