Monday, February 28, 2005

Under Pressure

As a US-based Addick, I had the benefit of seeing the full ninety minutes from the Riverside, albeit on a three-hour delay. Avoiding the result in New York is far easier than it would be in the UK, and hence I settled down to a lunchtime showing of our game that felt as good as live.

Charlton created three chances and scored with two of them so it's hard to feel aggrieved that we twice failed to hold onto a lead inside the last fifteen minutes. However, given our height advantage, it was disappointing that both goals were soft and came firstly from a set-piece that we failed to clear, and second from a hopeful punt upfield. Indeed, it seemed that panic ensued every time a ball was fired into the Charlton box which was disappointing given that El Karkouri, the Herminator and Bartlett should be been the natural winners aerially.

Deano was exceptional, pulling off a series of fine saves, none better than his first half stop from Nemeth from point blank range. With the likes of Man Utd and Arsenal suffering from keeper problems, it's reassuring to know we have someone between the sticks who continues to pull off saves when you've already braced yourself for a goal. Having said that, (and I feel guilty even suggesting it), he had no reason to race from his line on their second goal given that defensive cover was around and given that the young striker Graham did not even have the ball under control. Deano's decision to come off his line effectively presented a goalscoring opportunity that otherwise wouldn't have existed. Along with his occasionally wayward kicking, his judgment in these situations can sometimes leave much to be desired.

Other players who deserve a mention include El Karkouri who looks as assured as ever; Konch who played intelligently throughout and with limitless energy; Holland who does sterling work, often unnoticed; and Bartlett who is finally adding goals to his repetoire of goal-line clearances and defensive headers. Murphy looked out of sorts, particularly in the second half, and it was no surprise when he was removed. Indeed, whilst the midfield triumvirate of Holland, Kish and Murphy are difficult to break down, none of them have the pace to break forward and support the front man consistently. Despite Holland's fortuitious goal yesterday, we have not delivered enough goals from midfield this season. The one player who perhaps has this ability is of course Jason Euell who remains out of favour.

So we can take away a hard-earned point against a rival for the European slots, but it's hard not to imagine how the table may have looked this morning had we held on for three. Unfortunately I fear that Liverpool will find the momentum they've been lacking, whilst Tottenham's huge squad and improving form will see them finish the season stronger than us. Having said that, our forthcoming fixtures do not look especially daunting until Man Utd visit the Valley, by which point we will know if any European hopes remain alive. The stand-out fixture (and our game in hand) is Tottenham's midweek visit to the Valley which, based on recent midweek encounters, suggest four goals for them and fewer for us.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

2.75 million for Euell? and we turned it down?

The club's revelation that they turned down a last-minute 2.75m bid for Jason Euell from Crystal Palace is frankly astounding. Despite being an important squad player, this sounded like an opportunity to replenish the coffers and use the cash to strengthen in areas where we don't have much cover, either now or more likely, in the summer. I think Euell is one of the best finishers at the club, but his awful first touch and lack of passing ability renders him only average overall. His effort levels however have never been in question.

I wonder to what extent the club is suffering from a behavioural bias known as 'anchoring' whereby decisions are made based upon a prior 'value' rather than actual current value. The fact that we paid a ridiculous fee for him in the first place should not detract from the fact that his actual value (in my view) is nearer a million pounds in today's market.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


After two great Premiership wins, a fortunate Cup win (followed by a fortunate draw), it is hard to deny that tonight's second half was a huge anti-climax to a great fortnight. It certainly sounds like we got what we deserved, but after heading to the interval at 1-0 one hoped that we had the guts and guile to stick it out, at least for a draw. I've just seen the goals on Fox Sports World, and Bryan Hughes' mislaid pass wasn't quite as bad as it sounded on BBC London but it obviously gave Liverpool the impetus to not only draw the game, but go on to win it. To be fair to Hughes, the finish was world-class and it is hard to imagine Shaun Bartlett finishing with similar aplomb (though three goals in four games is promising). The final half-hour sounded like one-way traffic and it was only a matter of time before Liverpool sealed the three points.

Those last 45 minutes can potentially be a negative turning point in our season given the difficulty of our forthcoming fixtures, so let's hope Curbs can prove (again) that he has the motivational and tactical ability to get a result at Newcastle. It's hard to see him changing the 4-5-1 formation given that a point would be a reasonable result, but it is potentially becoming a bit stale. Moreover, I don't see any benefit of playing Thomas on the right with Konch on the left - it has to be one or the other in the side, with Rommedahl or Hughes on the right. We've gone down the route of playing players out of position before and in my opinion, it's a flawed concept. I've never seen Hughes play for Charlton, but given that Kish did a great job before he got injured, I can't imagine that Hughes (who I always visualize as being skilful but lightweight) has more to offer currently. I think the midfield three of Murphy, Holland and Kish provides stability, with the option of Euell coming on from the bench to provide some attacking thrust.

At least 'Boro and Spurs lost (though Bolton are now on our shoulder). I still believe Everton will drift back to the pack and hence we have everything to play for despite today's result. Occasionally you have to pinch yourself that one is bemoaning a point lost at home to Liverpool.. It was barely ten seasons ago that a Cup trip to Anfield was a highlight of the season, not just another League game. Indeed, I recall Kim Grant scoring there with a late goal - now there's evidence of how far we've come!