Charlton lose war of attrition
A 'war of attrition' is defined as, "..a strategic concept that to win a war, one's enemy must be worn down to the point of collapse by continuous losses in personnel and matériel. The war will eventually be won by the side with greater such reserves."
Whilst I wouldn't want to draw parallels between the triviality of a football match with the tragedy of war, the analogy is at least useful in a purely footballing context not least when Bolton are playing. It's not clear to me whether their style has been created to suit their squad, or players are bought to suit their style, but either way it's not pretty. Moreover their five-man midfield has no wingers, causing the type of midfield congestion which resembles the Blackwall Tunnel approach in rush-hour. As Curbs rightly pointed out, there is more than one way to play football, and good luck to them - the only way they will change is if teams work them out and start beating them thus enforcing change upon them.
I had been greatly looking forward to my first visit to the Valley this season, and my first since the visit of Man City last season which produced a performance nearly as soporific as this one - perhaps I am the problem and should stay in NYC.
I had listened intently to the penalties on Wednesday from Paris and strolling the boulevards on Thursday morning, it was clear from the look on the beret-clad faces of the French as they smoked their Gauloises and read Le Monde that a near footballing miracle had occurred at Stamford Bridge. Although their expressions were blank and their shrugs unmistakenly Gallic, I could see it in their eyes.
Unfortunately however, our home form is such that those hardy few hundred that traipse up and down the country watching the Addicks, get far more pleasure than the twenty-odd thousand that make the short drive to the Valley.
Bolton's ugly but highly effective approach has been well-documented, and I would imagine it is hard not to be intimidated when you see the muscular presence most notably of Davies, N'Gotty, Jaidi and Faye. The question facing any manager about to face Bolton is "do we try to match them for physicality or do we try to show some guile and play around them?" Unfortunately Charlton did neither, hence the result.
I have written before about the importance of playing to our strengths and letting the opposition worry about us and adapt to our style of play, but Bolton are probably a unique case which required more team changes than the one forced upon Curbs, when Bent's virus saw a League debut for the unconvincing Bothroyd.
Firstly, playing Chris Perry against a team with a sole giant striker (who was ably marshalled by the Herminator) was futile and prevented us from having El Karkouri mixing it up physically. Second, we needed someone up front who might at least have a chance of turning their huge (but slow) central defenders - instead we were reduced to pumping long balls at Bothroyd who won his fair share of headers, but lacked support when he did so.
Although I'm far from his biggest fan, JJ showed in just 15 minutes that he could get behind them, forcing their keeper into his first save of the match from a Bothroyd flick. If not JJ, then perhaps Ambrose or Rommedahl should have played as a second striker. I get the impression both Ambrose and Rommedahl would make a better striker than winger anyhow but what do I know? They both showed glimpses of promise, but they were billeted on the wings as the battle took place elsewhere.
There is so little to say about the game itself, other than it was pretty obvious by half-time that one goal would probably win it and so it proved, and a highly fortunate one at that though Curbs was right to castigate our defenders to reacting so slowly to Andersen's superb parry. The Hughes header right at the death would have at least have given the game a fair result, but it just felt like one of those days.
It would be easy to blame the defeat on tiredness from Wednesday, but more likely as Curbs intimated, there was an inevitable flatness after the Cup-induced adrenaline rush, rather than tiredness per se; Bolton after all also had a tough midweek tie and a journey down south. In short, he got it wrong tactically and once this became apparent, he didn't have the nous or perhaps more worryingly the personnel, to put it right.
To sum up a few individual performances, if Kevin Davies demonstrates the brutal and physical approach to the lone striking role, and Darren Bent the pacy and skilful one, then unfortunately Bothroyd falls somewhere in between. He clearly has nice quick feet, but got roughed up too easily for a big man and never offered the type of option 'over-the-top' which Bent does. However pairing him with Bent (or another quick forward) would be a different proposition altogether.
Spector was chosen again at left-back and whilst he won important headers (thus emphasising the value his height brings), his positional sense looked awry and more width-minded teams would have taken advantage. Hreidarsson was immense for most of the game and has become the default choice at centre-back in the space of just ten games. Luke Young continues to impress and he made several promising forays forward whilst never neglecting his defensive duties. Kishishev had a decent game, particularly in the first half, but along with Murphy and Smertin, in the end they were outfought (and outnumbered) in central midfield.
There is no doubt that our home form is a concern. It is truly astonishing that we can accumulate 19 points from 10 games, yet win just a single home game (a win over Wigan which looks more impressive than perhaps we realised at the time). One wonders why we can't just approach home games in the same way as a away games - emphasising a patient build-up, soaking up pressure and hitting teams on the break. It is probably the crowd influence (both ways) which subconsciously affects the players and encourages them to go forward with abandon, when a more thoughtful approach is required. I can't honestly recall us dominating and looking as comfortable in a home game, as we were at say 'Boro this season.
In an earlier post, I suggested we may play different formations home and away. I had speculated that Curbs might play with two out-and-out wingers at home in a fluid 4-5-1 which could become 4-3-3, but play more conservatively away from home. Ironically given our results, it looks like we should become more conservative at home (rather than away), perhaps playing a narrower and more conventional 4-4-2 and leave the expansive pacy formation to away games. It's a funny old game.