Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Brighten the Corners

Fans of indie rock band Pavement will recognise the album cover. Fans of Charlton Athletic meanwhile should appreciate the sentiment. The reason? To the extent that I can ascertain, Charlton haven't scored a goal from a corner this season.

Now I'm not naive enough to think that a team's prowess at corners materially dictates its season, but it's still a ridiculous and disappointing observation, and equally an unsurprising one given our general poor delivery and lack of creativity.

To put our poor showing in perspective a little, Fulham defender Carlos Bocanegra rocketed home two headers direct from corners during the Easter period alone. If his own side had defended a little less like muppets for the duration of both matches (and a little more like Charlton perhaps), that could have been six points in the bag and Premiership survival there and then. Meanwhile, up at Bramall Lane, Newcastle's Steven Taylor leapt prodigously on our behalf to consign Sheffield United to a home defeat.

Our lack of goals at corners is particularly frustrating for two reasons. Firstly, we have plenty of height and natural headers of the ball in our side, from the Herminator to Talal El Karkouri, and from Darren Bent to namesake Marcus.

Second, corners would appear to be a great 'leveller' when playing against an otherwise superior side. We can't expect to compete with say Man United or Chelsea on the overall balance of play because their technical skills are so much better, but in my view we should be as likely to score against them at a corner, as they would be against us.

So where does the problem lie? Clearly our delivery is not good enough, and to the extent that there is even a plan at corners devised on the training ground, it is simply not able to be executed. Some of the corners delivered by Jerome Thomas for example at Man City would not have looked out of place in a Sunday League pub game. It is not only Thomas who as at fault; at various points Darren Ambrose, Andy Reid and Dennis Rommedahl have all attempted to take a more dangerous corner with similar results. Is it really too much to expect a professional footballer to be able to regularly deliver a dead ball at the optimum pace and height to maximise our chances of scoring?

Secondly, even if someone could deliver the ball into the right area, there rarely seems to be much in the way of invention in our setplays, at least to the extent it might be visible to the uninitiated fan. This is not a problem unique to the current Charlton side, nor perhaps football in general; Mervyn Day used to regularly get some perhaps undeserved criticism from fans bored of our lack of innovation in these areas. It still never ceases to amaze me for example that we can be awarded a free-kick on the edge of the area, and no-one seems quite sure who should be taking it. What do they do all week on the training ground?

Oh, and don't get me started on that Jerome Thomas penalty against Newcastle. As a reminder, a vital late penalty was awarded to the Addicks, the successful conversion of which would have assured us three points and move us a step closer to the tens of millions assured by Premiership survival. With Darren Bent off the pitch, surely the previously agreed 'hierarchy' of penalty takers would now come into effect? Erm, not quite:

"That was the first penalty I've taken in about 10 years I think. I saw Amdy Faye show a bit of interest when the penalty was won but I just took the ball off of Shay Given and said I wanted to take it.”

Luckily on this occasion he scored, but the build-up to the penalty hardly engenders much confidence that the team is being prepared in the most professional way possible, not least when the margins between success and failure at this stage of the season are so thin.

On this topic, I had an interesting email exchange with a fellow Addick over the weekend were we both bemoaned the fact that football clubs are not run with the same degree of diligence and professionalism as other industries where the practitioners are similarly well-paid. It brought to mind an article I read last month concerning Bolton Wanderers, and it goes a long way to explaining the success they have had. One particular quote stuck with me:

"Our screening process is so extensive. We recruit possibly eight players every year on, say, an average wage of £1m. If you went into the private sector, the due diligence around recruiting someone on that amount would be incredible, but we're making the same investment here so we have to be as thorough. It's actually quite difficult to sign for this club because of the due diligence we undertake."

Without wishing to pick on Charlton in particular, could we really say the same for example about Franny Jeffers or Djimi Traore?


At 10:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good points, our corners this season have been atrocious. Why also can we not keep the ball after throw-ins? Our lack of movement is terrible, especially in attacking positions.

At 9:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its no coincincidence that El K and Hreidarsson scored from corners when Di Canio, Jensen, Murphy were here and now we don't get anything. Andy Reid looked a good corner taker in the glimpses we have seen of him.

Having said that Man C must have had more corners in the first 5 mins against us than we've had all season.

At 1:27 AM, Anonymous largewoodenaddick said...

I'd like to point out that even Murphy and Jenson's corners were not 'that' great. Di-Canio's were the only ones I remember delivered with both accuracy and more importantly pace. To that extent - the best corner taker we have at the moment is actually Darren Bent. The obvious problem is that we want him on the other other end of it as well. He's definitely carrying an injury at the moment but if he wasn't, I'm sure we'd see him taking more of the corners.

At 5:01 PM, Blogger maskedtortilla said...

Didn't Thomas take one of the penalties when we beat Chelski in the league cup a couple of seasons ago?

At 5:12 PM, Anonymous newyorkaddick said...

No he didn't - they were scored by Bent D, Bothroyd, Holland, Hreidarsson and Hughes.


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