Friday, August 05, 2011

Cherry Blossom

The summer break from football usually drags on (especially in a year with no international competition), but this time Charlton fans were happy for some respite after the humiliating end to last season.

However the general mood has rapidly evolved from pessimism to optimism (perhaps irrationally so), as fifteen new players agreed terms to wear the Addicks shirt.

As I tried to explain last week, I don’t believe there has actually been much significant net new investment, although no reasonable fan would argue that the squad is worse off having sold Jenkinson, but used the money to pay a half-dozen transfer fees.

Many of the signings (eg. Stephens, Wiggins, Evina, Morrison) seem extremely logical, their ability to compete in League One already proven, yet still with plenty of potential to improve further.

They supplement the rather more speculative signings of the likes of Bover and Pritchard.

Others as previously described offer less in the way of upside potential (eg. Taylor, Hayes), but hopefully little in the way of downside surprise either.

However it is worth noting that essentially none of them were playing at a level higher than League One last season.

Whilst I argued in my ‘CAFC: The Movie’ blog that the market for footballers was not completely efficient, it is also not completely inefficient either and thus these players are at this level for a reason.

It would be nice to believe some of the media rumours that we outbid some Championship (or even Premiership) clubs for their signatures, but I’m sceptical unless we overpaid and overcommitted (which in itself would not be a good thing given my concerns that the long-term interests of the club/fans and the new owners, are not fully aligned).

I’m also conscious that I’m probably not alone in being accused this summer of so-called ‘confirmation bias’, namely the tendency to interpret information in a way that confirms their preconceptions.

In this specific case, it concerns the tendency for us fans to look for information (on club message boards, YouTube etc.) which confirms a new player is an outstanding signing.

In the most recent instance, fans seem to have focused on the fact that Leeds fans loved Andy Hughes for his attitude, whilst glossing over the fact that numerous Norwich fans have described him as the worst player they ever saw in the yellow shirt.

As always tends to be the case in these matters, the truth will lie somewhere in between the two extremes.

An alternative but relevant bias is what I will term ‘un-confirmation bias’, which I would describe as the tendency to virtually ignore the summer transfer activity at other League One clubs, handily forgetting that they have not been spending the past few weeks merely admiring our squad-building, without attempting some of the same themselves.

Admittedly we have one of the largest playing budgets in League One (even if it’s arguably no larger than last season), but the likes of Phil Brown, Danny Wilson, Gary Megson and Martin Allen are canny operators, with considerably more experience than our Chris Powell.

Lee Clark meanwhile will take his win ratio to 50% if Huddersfield win tomorrow, an impressive statistic at any level.

I am confident of something though - we won’t miss Semedo and Racon one iota.

In the particular case of Semedo, whilst one cannot fail to admire the guy’s attitude, I firmly believe he was a key reason why we have gone backwards since he became a first-team regular.

I don’t know the likes of Hollands, Stephens and Alonso well enough to be sure, but I’m confident we will discover that expecting a midfielder to be both a tackler/blocker and playmaker, is not an unachievable goal at this level.

Powell has awarded Johnnie Jackson the captaincy which seemed a little strange at first sight.

His relatively quiet onfield personality seems similar to some previous captains (eg. Matt Holland, Christian Dailly), but unlike that pair, his position is not at the very heart of the side.

Moreover I would not consider his place in the side to be sacrosanct, particularly with lack of pace being at least one area of concern in the current squad.

His goals were vital last season of course, but given he has never been a goalscorer in the past (much football played at full-back admittedly), I’m not yet tempted to take that particular trait for granted. Matt Taylor seemed a more obvious choice.

Now I know that no-one reads my blog for the exuberant optimism, so here's another thing on my mind.

There appears to be a notable lack of height in the side, particularly at full-back if Wiggins and Solly start (which they might not with Hughes having arrived).

The two first-choice centre-backs are big strapping lads, but any opposition manager would be telling the inevitable big target man (or men) to peel off, and ensure they’re challenging for crosses against one of this pint-sized pair.

Throw in the fact that at set-pieces, the similarly vertically-challenged likes of Wright-Philips, Stephens and Wagstaff will be required to play a marking role, and it’s clear where our Achilles heel might lie defensively.

However before I allow my anxiety to get the better of me again, it’s interesting to note which side ran out this time last year to face the same Bournemouth side at The Valley:

Elliot, Solly, Jackson, Doherty, Dailly, Semedo, McCormack, Wagstaff, Reid, Abbott, Sodje

To be fair, we were somewhat buoyed back then about the signings of the likes of Reid and Abbott, but we soon learned some harsh truths.

Nonetheless, it is hard not to be at least moderately excited about the side that will likely run out tomorrow, especially with the likes of Alonso, Evina, and Green waiting in the wings:

Hamer, Hughes, Wiggins, Morrison, Taylor, Stephens, Hollands, Wagstaff, Jackson, Hayes, Wright-Philips

I suspect I won't get to see as many matches as I'd like this season, but I will be at this one. Up the Addicks!


At 8:21 PM, Anonymous Chris said...

That's the team I expect too. I know you made this point before, but I wonder how many times Charlton have fielded eight debutants in a League match?

Of course, it would have been nine had Green not been suspended.

At 12:38 AM, Anonymous sillav nitram said...

well new york, we won't have to worry about hughes being labelled the worse player ever to don a charlton shirt. thankfully that accolade has already been taken up by mcoxo?%~{>

At 7:10 AM, Blogger Dave said...

Well thought out and, in the circumstances,a brave post. I agree completely with your assessment about the incoming players. We should have hope, however, that most are c 21-23 and should have room for further development. Hopefully they will have much in common and that will have helped establish an all important esprit de corps. The lack of height is a concern and that has already been exposed in pre-season. If it proves an Achilles heel, expect to see Gary Doherty starting in the middle.

The one thing that's now crystal clear is that Chris Powell is holding the can high above his head in the event that this bold gamble doesn't pay off.


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