Saturday, August 06, 2011

Shakin' Stephens

When writing post-match blogs, I am consious that the vast majority of readers will have seen the game so I will keep this brief.

In short it was a very positive afternoon, but not necessarily in the way you might imagine.

The day began with a surprise with Elliot confirmed as keeper, and Hamer not even on the bench. It is hard to believe Powell wants three senior keepers, so something has to give.

We were actually pretty mediocre, playing a counter-attacking style (at home) and often resorting to long balls from defence.

Indeed if you played a neutral a video of the game, but removed the goals I suspect he would not believe it finished 3-0.

The game was won by that scoreline because two of those goals were terrific (even if the second was a 100/1 shot, quite literally), whilst we had better players than last season who had that extra gear when required because goals were needed. That gear change was almost tangible.

If the team can improve and bring better movement to Powell's apparent preference for a passing game, then we can be considerably better still. We will face tougher opposition than Bournemouth however.

Stephens in particular was a class act, with Hollands the ideal albeit less showy foil. Those who resented the exit of Semedo and Racon must have been shakin' their heads in acknowledgment of their mistake.

Credit to whoever uncovered Stephens and negotiated the deal, because he was comfortably the best player on the pitch. League One's answer to Frank Lampard, not least in the way he stroked home the opener.

I wasn't aware that Hollands had a long throw in his locker, and whilst it will no doubt create the odd goal, I doubt if this will offset the sheer number of times it simply gifts quality possession back to the opposition.

It works for Stoke because they have a massive physical presence (and a better throw).

The full backs looked solid though one worries about the degree to which their pace and intelligence can offset their tender physiques, especially away from home. Again Bournemouth were a small side who did not trouble either in this sense.

There were one or two communication problems in central defence, although Taylor and Morrison offer a real set-piece threat that should be good for a half-dozen goals at least.

The last of the new men (Hayes) had a couple of iffy first touches, but was pretty much as expected ie. rather lumbering, but offering a genuine escape ball option. Then again I thought that initially about Pawel Abbott.

The potential weak spot for me was the flanks, particularly Jackson offering little as an out-and-out wideman (almost by definition), yet not offering many passing options tucked inside either. It didn't help that Wiggins did not try to overlap.

So there we have it. Another opening day win, and the most emphatic home victory since Nov 2009.

I expect better however because we won't always get the roll of the dice; next week that fabulous Wagstaff effort will be in Row Z.

Powell has been given the resources and now he has to maximise their return. Notts County will seemingly already offer a tough(er) test.

If Parky can get 84 points with arguably a weaker squad, then we can afford to dream a little tonight.


At 7:58 PM, Anonymous Steve Marsh said...

Negative as ever.

At 8:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Negative, uninformed and inaccurate.

At 9:40 PM, Blogger New York Addick said...

My blog began: "In short it was a very positive afternoon" - which part was negative? If you can't handle balanced assessment then I politely suggest the club website will suit your needs more than this site.

39% possession and three shots on target and yet we still won 3-0, precisely my point.

At 10:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about "we were actually pretty mediocre"? How about "would not believe it finished 3-0"? How about "often resorting to long balls from defence" (a manifestly unfair assessment)?

Personally I don't believe that 39% possession that the BBC are quoting but if it's true then we had by far the better quality possession. Most of their attacks ended up going backwards due to some hefty challenges.

Seriously, I think you watched a different game. It wasn't a cracker, they weren't perfect, but they played with style, they played as a team and they played for each other. It was a competent performance from a good group of platers, no more no less. But not worthy of your negativity.

At 10:15 PM, Blogger New York Addick said...

Yes, we did have better quality possession but we were at home against a team that will likely face a relegation battle.

I thought we did just enough to win - the game turned on the Elliot penalty shout and Waggy's stunner. On another day both of those 'incidents' go the other way.

I'd argue my interpretation (ie. mediocre but still won 3-0) to be highly positive ie. potential to do so much better.

If you think that performance is the benchmark then I'm sorry, your expectations are set too low.

At 10:34 PM, Anonymous Ketts said...

NYA - Hamer injured his hand in training.

At 10:44 PM, Blogger New York Addick said...

The last time I was accused of being overly negative was after Powell's 4th consecutive win against Peterborough.

Indeed a similarly anonymous reader commented: "The fact is, YOU are the blind one if you cannot see that this is a dramatically different team to Parky's. Maybe not in technique but in belief, attitude and spirit they are poles apart."

We won 2 of our next 19.

Unlike most fans, whilst I want Charlton to win, I watch with an impartial pair of eyes and will write about what I saw, regardless of the scoreline.

(although this performance was way more positive than the Peterborough one)

At 1:02 AM, Anonymous Steve Marsh said...

1. The "Elliot Penalty" was not a penalty, so the game did not turn there.

2. We didn't "often resort to long balls"

3. So terrific goals do not count? They are not worthy to win games with? Or was it all just luck?

4. Whether you can believe the score finished 3-0 or not, it did. The team earned it, they were the better side, the win was deserved.

5. You have shown yourself consistently to be a Powell hater and constant moaner about the football club. It sticks in my throat that you even consider yourself a fan. I do not. Fans support their team.

At 1:15 AM, Anonymous Steve Marsh said...

On other thing.

39% possession? You've been reading the BBC stats again. Just for the record, they can't even get the name of the goalscorers correct, I guess their stats are just as inaccurate.

I watched the game, we had control of the ball for long periods. Longer in fact than Bournemouth. I dispute your possession claim on the grounds that the BBC are clueless in this area.

At 7:49 AM, Blogger New York Addick said...

Confirmation bias. I wrote about it in my last post.

Yes terrific goals count, but they can't be relied upon. Passing, movement, organisation, technique and passion can - there was some of that in evidence yesterday, but not as much as I would expect to see when the team has bedded down.

We did not control possession for any meaningful period. We played on the counter attack. I suspect this was not how we intended to play our first home game of the season, but never mind it worked this time.

If Powell has anything (and I mean anything) about him, then we will improve as he clearly now has better players.

That performance repeated 46 times over the course of the season will produce about 72 points I'd say. If that's good enough for you then great.

I don't hate Powell. I love him for what he did on the pitch for us. I thought appointing him was daft though although my 'CAFC: The Movie' piece suggested there may be other relevant factors.

If being a fan on your definition implies being scared to point out that things are not 100% perfect all the time, then clearly I will never pass your test nor would I wish to.

It works both ways though. I don't recall many bloggers suggesting Charlton would win the Championship by ten points after that stunning 3-2 comeback win over Sheffield Weds in Aug 2007. Maybe irrational optimism doesn't suit me - won't be fooled again.

I try to bring a different perspective here, and without blowing my trumpet too much, I've been right more often than I've been wrong.

At 12:05 PM, Anonymous Chris said...

To Steve Marsh and Anon et al,

When does realism get interpreted as cynicism or negativity? When does positive thinking risk overconfidence and a failure to see weaknesses? Often is the answer in both cases. You can be both positive and realistic, but it’s not easy. Often the positive optimist fails to recognise the positive realist.

The fact is that there was much to be upbeat about yesterday, much that was encouraging, but great performance it was not. Is it reasonable to have expected a great performance yesterday? Of course not, but if the objective this season is to win this League [and surely it has to be], then it is important to recognise that improvement will be needed and to understand where. Is there something wrong with that statement?

One poster on Charlton Life wrote a great line last night, “Stephens and Hollands make Racon & Semedo look like Laurel and Hardy”. That was the big positive yesterday. Last season the ponderous, laboured Semedo and the brainless Racon were a major liability and the reason we were so often out passed and outplayed through central midfield. Yesterday, Stephens, who looked a class act, and Hollands gave the side movement and intelligence. That simple difference and the “multiplier” effect it should create could, on its own, be worth a lot of points over the course of the season [relative to last season]. However, despite this, I didn’t think our ball retention was as good as it needs to be; we weren’t terribly fluent, unless the benchmark for comparison is the side last season.

The BBC statistics on possession are a bit surprising I agree, but if you’d told me that one side had had the ball 60% of the time and asked me which, I’d have said Bournemouth. We were very dangerous on the break and they lacking in penetration, but we did not “out football” them. We should ignore these possession statistics [or dismiss them out of hand] at our peril; they were the lead indicator for our problems last season and, ultimately, the side's achilles's heel.

Another positive was Paul Hayes. He’s clearly an improvement on Sodje [many more brain cells], Benson [better first touch and more mobile] and Abbott [need I say more?] and we know that Wright-Phillips will score goals, but I suspect that Bournemouth’s centre backs will have many more challenging afternoons than they were given yesterday. I’m not surprised Chris Powell is looking at other options and nor would I be surprised if Hayes isn’t a certain starter.

Moreover, there was very little threat down either flank. The good news here is that Green will come in for Wagstaff and that there are options on the left. Jackson always “puts in a shift” as they say and last season he developed a goal scoring knack, of course, but unless he can repeat that trick his place may be in doubt. Evina is an obvious alternative [he’d provide the pace which was missing yesterday], but another option might be to play Alonso centrally with Hollands on the left; I’d prefer Hollands to Jackson I think [with Wiggins then looking to provide the attacking threat down that side of the field] so much here depends on Alonso. Will he force his way into the side?

At the back, I liked the look of Taylor and Morrison. Neither will take any prisoners, but they did have their “moments” yesterday and may have been punished by a better side.

I’m positive, but realistic. I’d be much happier though if I thought Chris Powell shared this Blog’s views about yesterday’s performance than I would be if I thought he’d be inclined to dismiss them as readily as you. Perhaps that’s the key point I’m making.

At 1:13 PM, Blogger New York Addick said...

Thanks Chris for the intelligent comments.

As it happens I do believe the BBC statistics. Bournemouth dominated possession in the second half in particular, but often ran into dead ends.

With our playing budget and thanks to the sale of Jenkinson, automatic promotion must be the goal (I'd settle for 2nd place though!).

So here's a question: how many points do you think we will need to achieve, and thus how much improvement will be required from last season?

Answer: I don't know, but the last five seasons required 92, 86, 89, 82 and 85 points to finish 2nd. I'm thus inclined to think we will need between 82 and 92 points, or 23 to 33 points more than last season (equivalent to at least 1/2 a point per game more, or an extra two points in every four games).

That's my benchmark and I'll continue to hold this revitalised Charlton team to it. Yesterday was a good start.

At 5:57 PM, Blogger Hungry Ted said...

Everyone take a deep breath...only one game gone and far too early for deep debates of this nature!

All I know is I enjoyed my day out and left the Valley with a smile and a greater belief that we appear to have some decent new players who offer quality in certain areas we have missed so badly in the last 4-5 years.

NYA - you are quite correct to be a realist. I try to follow the same ethic, if only to stay sane following the Addicks!

At 7:26 PM, Blogger Crowborough Addick said...

Please would all wingers stay off this site, as we do not want to lose a valued blogger as we nearly did last year with Wyn Grant. If you want to comment, then do not do so anonymously!

As I consider myself to be a world champion misery guts, I did not find the game yesterday depressing in any way. I was refreshed by the new players and new style of play. Most of the long balls eminated from Eliot, who almost certainly will not be the prime custodian. Also you need to allow the new players to bed in, and I thought they did so rather well.

What is a concern, as a former defender myself, is the weakness in defence, which up against the more aggressive teams will be ruthlessly exploited. Morrison in particular, as he seems to panic under pressure.

More positively, we still have Green and Alonso to come in, and from those who have seen them already, they are stronger options. I am just glad I don't have to try and fit them in. I can assure those of you who have not seen Green(not red!)are in for a treat. Alonso is said to be very technically gifted. Also we are promised a new striker.

For those of you who did not know, there is a journalists dispute which has barred most from reporting directly on games at the moment, so reports are coming second hand. Hence the cock up re the goalscorers.

So, to be top of the league when we are mis-firing can only be a massive positive. Next up Notts County away, which is predicted as an away win. FYI, I have predicted 97 points this season, so come on you Reds!

At 11:14 AM, Blogger Marco. said...

Great post again NYA.
While not agreeing totally with everything you say, I find it refreshing to read your thoughts after games.
Most of us are tempted to think of Charlton as world beaters when we win or an appalling shower when we lose. It's just the way we are as football fans.

I appreciate your ability to stay detached.
Oh and anybody who accuses you of not being 'a fan' because you don't write glowing sycophantic puff pieces about our management team hasn't been following your blog for long.
Keep it up- I like your blog best of all, and it was after our chat in the Sony Building NYC that I started to think seriously about starting my own.
(so it's your fault!)

At 11:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done, NY Addick. Keep up your intelligent comments for those fans, like me, who love the club and know the best way to support it is with passion - and a level head.

At 4:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@CA, It's ridiculous to suggest that NYA would abandon blogging because of 'whingers' or negative anonymous commenters. Anyway, since when did disagreement become whinging?

Sorry and all, but ANY blogger knows that if you're going to go ahead and post your own opinions on the Internet (especially about something as polarising as football), you damned well have to aware that not everyone is going to see things the same way that you do.

At 7:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's always good to read accounts which at least try to be impartial. There's too much blind prejudice among supporters in football.

On another note, I was pleased to see that there was not one Charlton player booked on Saturday, which I believe is unusual. The discipline side of things is important, I feel, and it seems to me that there were very few games in the last couple of seasons which ended without a Charlton booking and too many which saw a player sent off. Does anypne have the figures on this?

At 9:28 PM, Blogger New York Addick said...

Anonymous @7.28pm

Last season we had 8 reds (the 3rd worst in League One) and 62 yellows (about average).

I thought Hayes was a silly to raise his hands in the first half - a more officious ref might have been less lenient.

But yes, suspensions can hardly help and 8 reds is excessive.

At 5:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read the game the same way you did. The score could have been 5-0 to us or 3-2 to them. I knew Stephens was special after about 10 minutes at Millwall. His calmness on the ball is something we haven't seen for a while. I wasn't convinced by Wiggins defensively. I thought Solly/Waggy had decent games but still don't think they are good enough for a starting role in an automatic promotion chasing side and the jury is still out for Hayes and Taylor. I did enjoy the game more than any game for a while though and looking forward to the next one. Hopefully as the team gels more we will improve but we need a greater strength in depth of squad I also believe.

At 1:59 PM, Blogger The Exile said...

Bit late to the party on this one, but I believe NYA is right to be cautious. We have played ONE game, and although the signs were encouraging, it has to be said that there were some issues that could potentially cause problems in future matches.

Our defence was barely tested against Bournemouth. They had little going forward and our two centre backs will have to get their positional play sorted because I did see some frailties in this area.

I have said a few times on my own blog that I'm not convinced with Morrison, but I also think that some of the pacey forwards in this division will cause major problems with both our centre backs. Neither of them have the legs, which is why their positional play needs to be improved.

It's early days, and we did play some good stuff, but we have another 45 games to play. Let's not celebrate too prematurely.


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