Friday, August 19, 2011

Good Start

Three wins, seven goals, three solid performances, nine points, joyous fans returning home down the A12.....this is Charlton we're talking about isn't it? (pinches himself).

Ever the realist, one could point out that the above paragraph might just as easily have referred to the start of season 2009/10.

On that occasion we had followed up a slightly nervy home win over Wycombe, with two similarly impressive away performances at Hartlepool and Leyton Orient (2-0 and 2-1 too incidentally).

We were to go on to increase the run of consecutive wins to six, before draws against Southampton and Norwich (remember them?) brought us somewhat back to earth.

The season ebbed and flowed, before ending with 84 points and a play-off semi-final exit to Danny Wilson's Swindon ("..he's behind you!").

Despite early promising signs, I think one could have a healthy debate about which side (the 2009/10 vintage, or the current one) was 'optically' the stronger at this stage of the season.

I say 'optically' because two seasons ago it turned out that the team wasn't as strong as we thought after that terrific balmy August evening, although we didn't know it quite yet.

You will recall that the team that began that season was particularly strong through the midfield, just as the current one seems to be.

Fans' favourite Semedo patrolled the front of the defence, Racon and Shelvey roamed behind the lone striker (I very nearly wrote 'loan'), whilst Bailey and Sam provided considerable danger from the flanks, drifting inside and outside respectively.

We were playing some lovely football too, far removed from the long ball stuff that Parkinson's teams depressingly evolved into relying upon.

The point of all of that is to emphasise that there will be a time to begin getting carried away, but we are nowhere near that point yet.

I've circled the Hartlepool game on Oct 29th as the date to properly assess where we are, and where we might be going.

Sixteen games feels like a statistically significant enough number, it equates to 'one game per new signing', and the fact that we will have played exactly 24 hours of football somehow feels suitably robust.

It may not have been a coincidence that the aforementioned flowing football began to break down as summer turned to autumn, and lush pitches turned heavy and bobbly.

For now, let's just acknowledge however that the summer signings appear to have been as additive as we'd have hoped, and there may be more to come from them (Hamer, Green, Alonso, Evina anyone?).

Curiously despite those signings, a not insignificant core of the team remains intact from last season.

Elliot, Solly, Wagstaff, Jackson and Wright-Phillips were key last season as well, and provided nearly half of our goals in 2010/11.

If there has indeed been a revolution, it's been a rather bloodless one so far and explains part of my caution.

After all Morrison, Taylor, Wiggins, Hollands, Stephens and Hayes have all made promising starts, but could six new players (all from other League One clubs) really make that much difference?

Or more likely were we so death defyingly bad at the tail end of last season, that any rational comparison to that awful season is moot?

Going back again to 2009/10, whilst of course it's very early days, one senses that winning promotion this season may be a somewhat more straightforward task. All seasons and leagues are not created equally.

If payroll is the most important predictor of success (and assuming payroll is mainly a function of revenue), then in 2009/10 we found ourselves in competition with relatively rich Leeds, Norwich, Huddersfield and Southampton.

Each of this quartet achieved promotion or play-offs (adjusting for Southampton's points deduction), and a whopping average points total of 86.

I'm not suggesting that League One lacks similarly rich clubs this season (Sheffield United, Huddersfield, Preston and Sheffield Wednesday fit the bill), but aside from the Blades (on recent evidence only) there is a nagging sense that their respective average points total will be considerably worse than 86.

Indeed, whilst those six opening wins in 2009/10 didn't even catapult us to bookmaker favourite status (because Leeds matched us win-by-win), we have already been installed as favourites this time around after just three.

Whilst happy that my £50 at 14/1 is now looking like 'legalised theft', my rational mind kicked in and I've laid half of it away at 9/2 on Betfair.

It is dangerous however to extrapolate too much from recent form, and indeed I am working on a systematic betting strategy to exploit this very bias week-in, week-out.

I may report back on this in due course, although one suspects it will still lose money but in a systematic way, rather than a random one. Same financial outcome, but a good deal more intellectual satisfaction.

The danger of said extrapolation is best exemplified by the fact that last season's deserved champions Brighton took just four points from their opening three games, so the risk of the 'dark horse' is always prevalent.

Few fancied Brighton pre-season, and even fewer fancied them after three games. This time around, I'm keeping a keen and nervous eye on MK Dons.

However as I noted in comments to my post-Bournemouth post, based on the past five seasons' League One tables, a total between 82 and 92 points is enough to secure automatic promotion.

Given that we are on course for 138 points as things stand, I'm feeling quite relaxed. Lose tomorrow and it will be down to 103.5 or 2.25 points per game...time to reach for some Valium in full-on panic mode.

Up the Addicks!


At 8:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant analysis.

And miserable memories of watching a very low quality interent stream of the play-off defeat.

I'm confused by 'death defyingly bad' - surely defying death is, all told, a good thing? ;)

At 8:45 PM, Blogger New York Addick said...

I think if you'd offered some Charlton fans a lethal injection during some of our performances last season, they'd have grabbed your hand off.

At 7:37 AM, Blogger Dave said...

I don't believe we have a vastly superior squad of players this year to last. As you point out, there is a goal-scoring/stopping nucleus from last year. I think what the clearout may have achieved is a new esprit de corps and the confidence to go forward and win matches. That could be all we needed but any loss of that confidence or any backroom shenanigans could always change the mood within the playing staff that could seriously affect results, as I believe happened after January last season. I am pleased to say that the acquisition of Paul Hart doesn't look to have unsettled anyone. Ten games is always my marker on the outcome. If we win again today, that puts us a long way to a top six finish based on ten games played! Let your heart rule your head for once - let's dream!


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