Wednesday, August 13, 2008

UEFA Cup Dreams Threatened

An uninspiring evening of football at The Valley ended in a typically pathetic, and all too regular Cup defeat for the Addicks against lower League opposition. The FA Cup thus remains our only route into the UEFA Cup next season.

Pards was correct to point to our domination of possession, particularly in the second half, but we did not create a single chance during that period, so frankly what was the point? Indeed our only very clear opening occurred inside the first few minutes, when debutant Bouazza pounced on a loose ball but could not convert from 12 yards.

The result is irrelevant (as indeed is the entire competition in truth), and I perhaps wasn’t alone in willing keeper Rob Elliot not to score from one of his late forays forward, because had he have done so it would have meant 30 minutes more purgatory. However the game did raise one or two questions.

Firstly why did Pards pick 16-year old Jonjo Shelvey, and moreover play him for the full 90 minutes? Had we equalised, he would have been forced to play in extra time too.

Shelvey is potentially a big talent (and showed glimpses thereof last night), but pre-season Pards implied he would use him as sparingly as possible, within the constraints of our tiny squad. With Dean Sinclair or Josh Wright available on the bench, what was the purpose of his selection with Watford to come on Saturday? It seemed ludicrous to me, and potentially highly risky with such little cover (ditto Jonathan Fortune, who as I feared did indeed hobble off injured).

Second, presuming that Bouazza will not be used as a deep-lying striker, but instead as a wide midfielder, why use him there last night when it was an ideal opportunity to give Dickson or Fleetwood a proper run-out to see how they fared? Instead he could have slotted straight into the wide left position which he’ll likely fill on Saturday when Andy Gray returns.

As for the game itself, other than the wasted tactical opportunities above, none of the fringe players demonstrated much desire to prove a point to the gaffer, particularly Wagstaff who looked like he needs a loan spell at Ebbsfleet or Grays.

Youga and Semedo actually surprisingly looked competent in central defence (although they weren’t really tested), whilst I like the look of Basey longer-term. With his sweet left foot, solid build and obviously good attitude, I see a potential Premiership player someday. Moutaouakil was so-so, but would benefit from a more intelligent right-sided partner than Sam, perhaps Luke Varney (see below) or even a rejuvenated Darren Ambrose in due course?

On the flanks, Thomas and Sam were their usual non-productive selves, whilst in between them the aforementioned Shelvey and Holland toiled away, but neither has that touch of guile that can unlock defences it seems.

Upfront, one really wants Varney to be a success because his attitude is spot-on, but whilst he runs more channels than Rupert Murdoch, his end product is considerably worse. His game includes traits one finds in each of target men and outright finishers, but as a blend it leaves him neither here nor there, and one expects more for £2million.

Bouazza began the game meanwhile with great intent (demonstrating noticeable pace and strength), but before long he was anonymous and I’d be challenged to conclude exactly which position he was playing in.

In a way then, it wasn’t all that dissimilar from the Swansea game, except that with no discernible presence at set-pieces this time, a single defensive mistake cost us the game. The lack of creation from open play is a concern, and one perhaps that Nicky Bailey (rumoured to be on his way) can address.


At 12:36 PM, Anonymous sinking feesh said...

Was not at the game but as soon as I saw the line up I couldnt help but question why Pards played two wingers come strikers upfront. That combination didn't even look capable of scoring goals on paper.


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