The 08.16 to Cannon Street
Charlton's rather patchy and inconsistent pre-season friendlies are now over, and they have potentially thrown up as many questions as answers about how Dowie sees us playing this season.
Our Spanish-based blogger Nelson has taken the trouble of documenting the amount of pre-season minutes played by each squad member, and it throws some light upon Dowie's thinking.
Dowie has shown no inclination to deviate from a flat back four, so assuming he will play Hasselbaink/Bent D up front, a 4-4-2 formation seems inevitable, the only question being the degree to which the midfield four will be asked to create goals as well as prevent them (a cynic might suggest our midfield will successfully prevent goals at both ends this season but we shall see).
Barring a last-minute signing, I would be surprised not to see Thomas Myhre in goal (he did enough last season to deserve it for now). Nelson then rightly suggests the back four will almost certainly be Young/El Karkouri/Hreidarsson/Traore who will lack nothing when it comes to raw physical presence, but fans may not need to fly to Edinburgh to see first-class comedy this month.
Dowie's choice in midfield meanwhile will require him to pick and mix from the creative quartet of Rommedahl/Ambrose/Bolanos/Thomas and the rest. Perhaps Dowie views his midfield options less as a burden, and more as a palette from which to paint his way to three points. Examples might include:
'Minimalist' (Hughes and Holland in the centre)
'Surrealist' (Marcus Bent played wide right)
'Modernist' (Simon Walton given a regular starting berth)
'Post-Modernist' (Walton replaced by Kishishev)
'Sensationalist' (Bolanos, Rommedahl and Ambrose in the same team)
More seriously, looking at our squad this season reminds me of a debate that was heard vociferously under Curbs: "Should the squad fit the formation or the other way around?" For example the 4-5-1 mainly employed last season existed (initially at least) to allow Murphy to create without burdening him with defensive duties. Likewise this season, a 3-5-2 formation could conceivably solve the midfield 'problem' without sacrificing a striker, and if executed properly could potentially be as fluid as the dustbins at Heathrow Airport.
Talking of our former boss, attempting to assess our first post-Curbs pre-season since 1990 has been unusual, and not just because we've played a team called Germinal Beerschot. Curbs was like the wife you've had for 16 years; the spark had long gone, but life was comfortable albeit predictable, and although she had started to look a bit dowdy recently, it would have been indecorous to have told her.
The possibility of a new boss was an exciting fantasy however. If Curbs was the loyal wife, then the new guy would be that sexy minx aboard the 8.16am to Cannon Street every morning; you know the one, with her power suits and just a little too much Chanel No.5. Unfortunately in the case of Dowie, we were forced to covet someone else's wife, which is not recommended since it invariably ends up in an ugly custody battle.
Reading back some of my posts from Dec 2005 and at the same time feeling somewhat fearful of what this season might bring, I couldn't help feeling a little like Reg in 'A Life of Brian' when thinking about what Curbs achieved: "All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?"
Luckily by Christmas we should have a reasonable idea whether we should have made a pass at the girl on the train, or stuck with the wife, frumpy outfits n' all. Incidentally Sven Goran Eriksson took this analogy to its extreme with his choice of Theo Walcott, though given his prior record from Faria Alam to to Ulrika Jonsson, perhaps we shouldn't have been surprised.