Monday, December 26, 2005

An A for Effort

There are finally some reasons for optimism after a more promising performance, not least defensively, but it didn't aid our points total unfortunately. On the way to the game, I speculated that Curbishley's idea of 'wholesale changes' may be less drastic than mine, but he surprised me with a genuinely different line-up which clearly had the aim of making us harder to beat.

Sorondo and Fortune moved seamlessly from the reserves to the first team, and gave us a degree of solidity at last. Indeed Sorondo reminded me of Steve Brown, thanks to a combination of a quasi-mullet, and good old-fashioned defending in the inimitable style of our former homegrown favourite, and not before time. Myhre was excellent throughout and made a number of good saves, not least in the build-up to the only goal. It was notable that finally Hreidarsson moved to where he belongs whilst Spector's brief appearance at centre-back was more promising than his entire prior Charlton career to date. One wonders why it took Curbs so long to spot something the fans recognised weeks ago.

The midfield four was exceptionally narrow and lacking in flair, but at least it prevented Arsenal from strutting their stuff with ease. Unfortunately the downside of such a tactic is that we created little going forward and frankly our attacking play in the second half was non-existent, with or without Murphy. Given our defensive frailties in recent weeks, maybe it's a case of not running before we can walk, so the likes of Ambrose have to be sacrificed in the name of damage limitation.

Hughes was a strange choice - neither aggressive enough to add much steel, nor cute enough to provide anything in the attacking third, much like Matt Holland whilst we're on the subject. We clearly missed Smertin whose absence had to have been explained by injury, and it was. One wonders whether Curbs was planning to play Euell and Smertin, but the latter's absence forced him to put in the more defensive Holland. Kishishev looked reasonably comfortable at right midfield, but it's painfully obvious that we're lacking natural wide midfielders of a defensive bent. As for Murphy, he was the only midfielder on show with the guile to open up the Arsenal defence, and his sending-off was a pointless exercise in childishness which blew our admittedly slim chances of nicking a point.

The fans finally got the 4-4-2 they were crying out for, and at times in the first half it looked promising, with Bartlett getting the better of Campbell in the air, but a more versatile striker must be a top priority in the transfer window. The late appearance of the hapless Lisbie merely emphasised the paucity of options available to Curbs right now.

So all in all a few minor positives to take away, but the team is playing without much confidence and we need a series of new faces in the transfer window in several key areas. It was reassuring in a perverse way to see Arsenal also forced to put square pegs in round holes, and the sight of Cygan at left-back reminded us it was clearly panto season. The Gunners are a shadow of the team that strolled to the title in 2003/04, but they possess world class players like Henry who is so good it's frightening. The difference in class between him and the Charlton team is as wide as the gap between a pub team and the Charlton squad.

Indeed, their extra individual ability was never more apparent than midway through the first half when through a combination of pinball-like passing they somehow created a one-on-one situation for Ljungberg via a move which had begun ten seconds earlier by their own corner flag. It would have been the 'goal of the season' hands-down - they could have awarded the trophy to the Swede as he jogged back to the centre circle. Thirty-yard rockets into the top corner (the types of goals that usually scoop these awards) have a huge element of good fortune about them and are simply the result of the 'law of large numbers'; this however was simply sublime, and whilst I hate myself for it, I wanted him to score so I could show the video to doubting Yanks and say, "this is why it's called the beautiful game."

Weather-permitting, I'm off to Newcastle tomorrow morning for a hopefully enjoyable couple of days, punctuated no doubt by another defeat and a continuation of our worrying, but not yet terrifying, slide down the table. Curbs needs to pluck a win from somewhere soon otherwise his job will be on the line at Hillsborough.


At 3:55 AM, Blogger Chicago Addick said...

You go to Newcastle?


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