Monday, December 24, 2007

Norwich preview

A year ago today, I was sat in the exact same hotel in Florida to learn the promising news that Alan Pardew had taken over from the hapless Les Reed as Charlton first team manager.

Any assessment of his achievements since then need to be set in the context of what came immediately before, namely four diabolical defeats in the space of two weeks that threatened to be early evidence that fifteen years of progress might be unravelled in just one.

The fact that we have not unravelled, but have done enough to consolidate a position firmly in the top echelons of the Championship is proof of some achievement, given that few of us gave Pards much of a chance of saving us from a near-certain relegation. Although a six-game unbeaten spell (from West Ham to Reading ironically enough) gave us some faint hope, our final win of the season was at home to Wigan, as far back as March 31st.

Pardew's league record as Charlton manager reads as follows:

Prem P19 W5 D7 L7 Pts 22
CCC P23 W11 D5 L7 Pts 38
Total P42 W16 D12 L14 Pts 60

Pardew clearly gave us our pride back, and losing just 1 in 3 matches in total given the mess he inherited is proof therof. I have admired his general preference for passing football, as well as his willingness to make impulsive tactical substitutions. His media persona is also refreshingly forthright and honest (if occasionally a little slick), and in short, he gives the firm impression of being a firmly in control and in charge.

On the negative side, his purchases have been mixed so far, especially when he has splashed out meaningful cash (Bougherra, Varney, McLeod, McCarthy etc.), although some of his more opportunistic/speculative signings have generally been successful (Iwelumo, Mills, Weaver, Motaouakil, Semedo etc.). Meanwhile, we have merited some justified criticism at times this season for being a little naive or one-dimensional, most worryingly so when thoroughly outclassed by WBA.

A clear observation from this season however (as opposed to a criticism), is that we are wholly unpredictable, a veritable coupon-buster and thus a favourite of the bookies. Every time we have put together a series of results (good or bad) that tempt one to extrapolate, we promptly learn to expect the unexpected, which brings us onto Norwich on Boxing Day.

I've tended to view Glenn Roeder in unfavourable terms as a manager, though this is perhaps a function of the power of the media, painting the awkward likes of Roeder in less favourable terms than our own far more polished gaffer. Those Norwich fans who resented his appointment (and there were several) have been forced to eat their words, as Roeder has steered a seemingly doomed Canaries side to a far more respectable 18th position.

Despite their travails, Norwich have been the best-supported team in the Championship this season (Charlton are 4th incidentally), and at 93.5% their ground is almost full every week (The Valley is 82% full on average). They will presumably view an injury and suspension ravaged Charlton side as perfect Christmas fodder, and like Hull last weekend, there is a good degree of unfinished business from the reverse fixture.

Carrow Road is a ground where we have a decent recent record, my own personal favourite memory being a stunning late Mark Kinsella winner in the mid-1990s (with his left foot) that I can still visualise as if it were yesterday. More recently, Andy Hunt scored a midweek hat-trick to secure a stunning 4-0 victory during our Championship-winning season in 1999/2000.

Predicting how Charlton will line up is fraught with difficulty, not least given that we were led to believe Zheng, Iwelumo and Ambrose were all highly doubtful for the Hull game (yet all started). The 4-5-1 formation which has mainly been successful surely only makes sense if Iwelumo is the sole frontman, hence it seems likely that Luke Varney will join Izale McLeod in a quick but lightweight forward pairing.

If Lloyd Sam is fit, then surely he and Jerome Thomas will patrol the flanks (with Ambrose as substitute back-up), whilst Zheng and Holland will likely continue in midfield, unless Pards opts for Sankofa at right-back, and asks Semedo to fulfil the holding role. In defence, Paddy McCarthy will replace Sodje if he fails to make the trip, but despite considering that the former Leicester man has been given a raw deal so far, the back four looks decidedly shaky.

When all is said and done, I expect us to line up as follows: Weaver, Semedo, Powell, McCarthy, Bougherra, Thomas, Ambrose, Holland, Zheng, Varney, McLeod. Subs: Randolph, Sankofa, Sodje, Arter, Dickson.

NY Addick predicts: Norwich 2 (Huckerby, Dublin), Charlton 1 (McLeod). Att: 25, 972.


At 12:58 AM, Blogger Chicago Addick said...

Keep up the great writing NYA. Hope You, Mrs NYA and the little 'un have a great first Christmas together.


Post a Comment

<< Home