Saturday, August 04, 2007

Not Much To Brag(a) About

Today witnessed my first trip to the Valley for ten months, and a proper chance to view Charlton's new look squad. As an added bonus the weather was glorious, a rare treat I understand.

Jorge Costa's Braga side were technically superb and an all-round class act, and thus represented an excellent final test for Pardew's side. The fact that we failed to create a single genuine goalscoring chance from open play was testimony to their quality.

Firstly the positives. Jose Semedo looked a class act in central midfield, and if Charlton's scouts were aware of his ability to play the holding role so effectively, then they ought to be congratulated for uncovering such a bargain. Barrel-chested and strong, he stood out as the single outstanding player on the Charlton side and will surely start on Saturday.

The other very impressive young player was the only other outfield player who completed the full 90 minutes, namely Yassin Moutouakil. Only his poor crossing marred an excellent performance that combined defensive responsibility with a willingness to push forward.

Elsewhere Madjid Bougherra demonstrated his unusual propensity to convert himself to a left winger if offered the chance, a sure-fire way to become a cult hero before long. Paddy McCarthy looked solid alongside him (and was clearly the organiser), whilst Darren Ambrose and Andy Reid suggested they will have even more productive days, especially against less accomplished opposition (although both were tucked in to a fairly narrow midfield, obliging Moutouakil especially to provide genuine width).

The obvious concern continued to be central midfield (who will accompany Semedo?), and up front where each of Bent, Todorov, and Iwelumo toiled in the heat, but with virtually no result. Each of the aforementioned trio of big men will do a reasonable job at holding the ball up, but Luke Varney's pace will surely imply a starting berth, if fit. If not, then one might be tempted to throw Dickson into the fray, who at least might provide a different type of threat (though Pardew may well have signed a new striker by Saturday).

Alongside Semedo, Dean Sinclair was an honest worker but the game generally passed him by, whilst Amdy Faye's lack of mobility will ensure he will bring little to the party (except as Semedo's replacement in the defensive role). Matt Holland was absent of course, but his presence perhaps with Reid and Ambrose in an 'inside left' and 'inside right' role, may be our best option presently.

At left-back, Ben Thatcher's own goal was best forgotten but it was reminscent of the error he made versus Sheffield United, and if one can't rely on this fundamentally limited player to at least not make basic mistakes, then one wonders if Chris Powell might not be the better option? Behind Thatcher, Nicky Weaver was generally solid and probably faultless for both goals. The stadium was quiet enough to hear his Northern voice instructing his teammates, and if nothing else he will be a highly communicative keeper. Elsewhere, Lloyd Sam, Jonathan Fortune, Chris Dickson, Martin Christensen and trialist Harry Worley had little time to impress.

All in all, there was enough to suggest a degree of controlled optimism, particularly thanks to Semedo and Moutouakil, but with just a week to go before the Scunthorpe game, there is still a sense that Pards is struggling to find enough round pegs to put into eleven round holes. Expect some last-minute transfer dealing (perhaps also involving the absent Jerome Thomas, and the unused Souleymayne Diawara?).


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