Friday, March 06, 2009

Watford preview

After being outclassed by Doncaster on Tuesday night, it was insightful to review some of their season statistics compared to ours.

Only 22 players have started a Championship game for Donny this season, compared to 37 for Charlton.

Of those 22, fully eight have started 25 games or more implying a settled side. By comparison, Charlton have just two relative stalwarts in Mark Hudson and Nicky Bailey (both with 32 starts each).

Ten different Charlton players have started at least one, but fewer than five matches meanwhile*. We may have been disproportionately influenced by injuries, but even the world's greatest managers would struggle to impart a system upon such a disparate squad.

I had an enjoyable beers session with Chicago Addick last night, in which he ran out a narrow 7-6 winner in a real ding-dong battle reminiscent of the Charlton v Huddersfield game from 1957.

We both bemoaned the fact that neither of our managers this season appeared to have any philosophy for playing the game, or a consistent system in which they believed in.

Unlike in the Premiership, there were no true individual 'stars' in the Championship, and thus any manager with the requisite spark and imagination, could develop a successful side from what are largely indistinguishable squads.

Perhaps the 'greater resources' argument could explain say Reading or Birmingham's lofty position, but Preston, Cardiff or Burnley's?

Parkinson's first three games in charge for example saw him prefer a classic 4-4-2, with genuine widemen and at least one target man.

Now his favoured formation seems to be a 4-5-1 (yet oddly with no 'true' width), with a striker who might be a half-decent poacher, but cannot hold up the ball.

This type of tinkering is not wrong per se, but in the absence of a well-understood general playing philosophy, it suggests desperation. And when players have come and gone with such regularity, the chance of imposing any such philosophy is effectively impossible anyhow.

We fully expected Parkinson to remain in charge next season, but feared a vociferous backlash if after say ten games, we are only in midtable (or worse).

The universe of realistic potential new managers shrinks inexorably all the while, but we suggested that we would still represent an attractive enough challenge for virtually any other League One manager (Adkins? Ferguson?), or even still some higher profile but out-of-work types (Sanchez? Hoddle?).

There are no guarantees of course, but the club needs to be firmly shaken up by an outsider with new ideas in my view to halt this decline.

A few miles down the road in New Cross, it seems we can't even get rid of our own loaned players. Izale McLeod is apparently now back at The Valley but unable to play for Charlton. This season never ceases to surprise.

Given the paucity of our striking options, it appeared one of the stranger deals anyhow. If he went to Millwall and scored goals, then one ought to question why he wasn't doing it in a red shirt (they are only five places below us in the pyramid after all).

He was replaced meanwhile by an unwanted striker from the same lower division who, if he was successful for Charlton, would presumably be wanted back by Leeds. Can you blame me for being pessimistic about next season, let alone the remainder of this one?

With Blackpool sitting in 21st place and already on 39 points, even that tally is starting to look like a challenge too far for Charlton with 11 games still remaining (it would alone require form equivalent to 50 points over a full season).

And with teams as high as Crystal Palace in 15th looking nervously over their shoulders, a manic final quarter of the season looks likely to ensure a survival target that represents the nightmarish scenario for Charlton that we all dreaded.

Parkinson has spoken of a points target of 50 being the 'almighty task' he has set his players, but even this looks implausibly optimistic, especially given our poor goal difference. A team could go down with 53 or so points. Hence better to accept the inevitable in my view, and begin to build for League One.

Watford also sit on 39 points, but have begun to generate a degree of consistency under new boss Brendan Rodgers, plucked from relative obscurity at Chelsea.

The reverse fixture that I attended at Vicarage Road in August was a showcase of dire football, and whilst surely no-one present expected to witness what has come since for Charlton, there were perhaps some tentative signs if you were willing to unemotionally look hard enough.

I think we will line up as follows: Elliot, Butterfield, Youga, Hudson, Ward, Ambrose, Bailey, Racon, Sam, Burton, Kandol. Subs: Randolph, Holland, Spring, Dickson, Shelvey.

NY Addick predicts: Charlton 1 (Bailey), Watford 1 (Smith). Tickets sold: 21, 334.

(*Butterfield, Gillespie, Kandol, McLeod, Randolph, Thomas, Todorov, Waghorn, Wright, Zheng).


At 12:52 PM, Blogger marco said...

I came back to my car after the game at Vicarage Rd to be met by a flat tyre.
I'd clean forgotten about the dreadful football that day.
Last season was considered a complete shambles but compared to this year, it was the peak of achievement!
In the same way that we now look back on Curbs time as a solid period in our history, will we soon be dreaming of the days when we were safe in the middle of the Championship?

At 10:38 PM, Blogger Chicago Addick said...

We discussed all that?! :-)


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