Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Curbishley's flexible friends

Time will tell whether Marcus Bent is a good signing for us or not, but it's hard to argue against the view that the fee is a little on the high side. Hence, I stopped to think about what factors Curbs may have considered before agreeing to make such a generous bid. Could it be his goalscoring potential? Or could it be his aerial ability and strength? Could it be his ability to play alongside namesake Darren?......And then it hit me like a bolt from the blue.....he can play on the right side of midfield! You just know that as soon as Curbs realised he can play in more than one position, he added another zero to the bid!

I think Curbs' obsession with versatile players made much more sense in the mid-90s when we were operating on a shoestring, than it does now. Back then, the fact that Brownie could move into midfield or Shawn Newton could drop to full-back was clearly a benefit in a small squad. Phil Chappell even started a game upfront (it didn't happen again not surprisingly).

However today we have perhaps the largest squad in our history. This combined with the ability to name five subs (and use three) has surely removed the need for players to be versatile in all but the most extreme circumstances. I've discussed before the fact that our best players of recent seasons were only able to play in one position, but did it extremely well (Parker, Kinsella, Mendonca, Hunt, Rufus etc..). Surely versatility should be a mere bonus, not an attribute you would actively seek?

Just to hammer home the point, I was somewhat taken aback by Curbs' comments in the 'Ask Curbs' section of the website. When asked about Luke Young's chances of making it into Sven's World Cup squad, he replied, "Once they get Luke into the training ground and have a good look at him they'll realise a couple of things. He can play in a couple of positions - he played a lot of his games at Spurs at left back and he can play centre back as well, as we know. So you've got a very versatile player there and I see no reason why, if he keeps up his form, that he shouldn't be part of that squad. I don't know who would play at left-back at the moment if Ashley Cole got injured, but you've just seen that once Gary Neville got injured they didn't have another specialised right-back established in the squad."

With all due respect to Luke Young who has become a core part of a team (at right-back), I suspect Sven will be less impressed with his versatility than Curbs is. If the injury situation was so dire that they ran out of 'natural' left-backs (Bridge, Cole) then he would sooner play 3-5-2 than throw in Luke at left-back in a vital World Cup clash.

I often shudder when I see Matt Holland pushed to right midfield, or Jerome Thomas asked to plow a right-wing furrow, and there are still question marks over the Herminator's abilities at centre-back despite this seemingly having become his default position. Taking players out of their comfort zone is rarely going to have a positive impact on the team. If Curbs feels he is lacking players in certain positions, then the transfer window is open or shock horror, maybe try out a youngster.


At 3:55 PM, Anonymous 90mph Dennis said...

You´re right about Curbs obsession with utility players. I reckon the reason JJ and Lisbie consistently make the bench ahead of e.g. Jeffers, Bothroyd or Lloyd Sam is that they´re "versatile" - i.e. equally inept up front or played on the wing. Combined with his other obsession for always naming two defenders as subs (at least one of whom never gets used), hardly surprising Curbs curbs doesn´t turn many games with his subs...

At 4:11 PM, Blogger New York Addick said...

I'm particularly concerned about our lack of youngsters coming through. There was a game away at Norwich last season when Luke Young moved to left-back and Kish played right-back - not surprisingly we lost, but the bigger issue was where the hell the reserve team or U19 left-back was? The lack of productivity from the academy should be cause by now for heads to roll but instead all we hear is how the academy is so highly regarded. It's hard to watch Ireland at Man City or Davis at Villa or Downing at 'Boro, and it makes youwonder where our next homegrown player is coming from (Fortune was the last, years ago).

At 4:14 PM, Anonymous martin said...

I wholeheartedly agree and it's quite worrying that Curbs presumably doesn't trust his judgement in buying players for specific positions.I find it difficult to be enthusiastic about the arrival of Marcus because his record suggests he may be just another Shaun Bartlett works hard but little end result.The difficulty for Charlton is the simple fact that we may never be in a position to buy world / top class players either through lack of transfer / wage funds or that where never going to have the potential image to be an attractive proposition through lack of trophys.

At 4:22 PM, Anonymous 90mph Dennis said...

Well, we have a decent reserve team right back in Barry Fuller, but Curbs just doesn´t seem to want to give the youngsters a chance (unless they´re Man Utd´s youngsters of course).


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