Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Roch Motel

Last night was part two of a rare five consecutive home game run for me, and this time I invited a Dutch colleague who grew up watching the great Cruyff and Neeskens-inspired Ajax of the 1970s.

Surprisingly he thought Charlton reminded him very much of that three-time European Cup winning side, "Yes you also play in red and white," he said dryly.

Given that Charlton have 'only' taken six points from their last four games, it is amazing how good the League table still looks.

As written before the Sheff Weds game, it's now a relative war not an absolute one, and we are winning it although it increasingly feels like one of attrition.

Rochdale have a new manager and look a solid midtable outfit, rather than relegation fodder on this display.

They packed the midfield and the shaven-headed pair of Jones and Kennedy were alive to every loose ball, whilst Symes ploughed an impressive lone furrow upfront.

It would be wrong to say they bossed the game, but an alien would have been hard-pressed to guess which team were the runaway leaders.

Since late November (roughly coincidental with BWP's last goal), performances have tailed off but the points tally keeps ticking over thanks to beautiful free-kicks, penalty gifts, stunning late speculative goals and brave defending.

The sign of a good side or a lucky one? Hmm, not sure - probably a bit of both.

The starting line-up had an odd feel, unbalanced on both sides with Wiggins and Green on the 'wrong side'.

I had wondered how we had managed to snatch the mercurial Wiggins from Bournemouth despite his obvious ability to play at a higher level, but on tonight's evidence maybe I have a clue.

He has a special left foot, but he literally has no right foot whatsoever. Watching him play passes up the right touchline with his left foot was painful.

At half-time Green was switched to a more familiar right-hand berth, but this in turn left Pritchard looking uncomfortable in his place.

You can understand after the Stevenage experience why Powell was reluctant to split the Morrison/Taylor partnership, but by moving Wiggins he weakened the team twice.

Against one of the division's worst sides at home, couldn't Hughes, or even Wagstaff have done a job?

It also would have allowed Evina to start in left midfield where at least some balance would have been restored, although it sounds as though he wasn't meant to be involved at all.

In midfield, Stephens frustrates not so much because of what he does (which is ok), but for what he is capable of doing.

Instead of driving the team forward, he plays the 'quarterback' role. The memory of him ghosting in to score our opening goal of the campaign are long gone sadly.

The limitations of Hollands (reliable but as mobile as a oil tanker) are thus laid bare infront of him, but unlike Stephens he is playing to his (lesser) potential.

We must all be thankful for Kermogant on a night like this whose contribution was outstanding, at least in terms of raw effort and strength.

It is hard to imagine many players in League One could be at once both battering ram and magician, but his free-kick equaliser was indeed magnifique.

Frankly if we played better football through the midfield, he would make a less vital contribution, but as it is his ability to win headers is remarkable (and there are plenty of them).

I'm convinced he might actually have levitated for his late-game headed chance, although maybe the amazing power and spring he produces with every leap was deceptive again.

With the Frenchman probably seeking ibuprofen for a post-match headache, at least Powell didn't insult our intelligence by bemoaning the fact that we didn't get our 'passing game' together (what passing game Chris?).

BWP's horrendous scoring form has given his manager an extraordinary dilemma - drop him and you shatter his confidence further; continue playing him in this form and the team is carrying a passenger.

The irony may be that Kermogant is infact le problème as far as BWP is concerned, the Frenchman winning every header but not really creating chances (other than a snap first-half effort).

As a tactic it's more akin to territorial rugby (something the Frenchman is presumably familiar with) than more cultured and subtle football.

A threaded pass will always be more accurate than a flicked-on header, and this is not his forte, whilst BWP lacks the raw pace to make the most of the latter.

With no goal from open play for the pair since 2011, you sense someone has to go and maybe it's Kermogant for Hayes, assuming BWP is indeed sacrosanct.

Interestingly BWP scored 7 goals in 10 games when partnering Hayes, but only 7 goals in 16 games when partnering Kermogant (of which none have come in the past 9).

Powell to his credit has not previously been shy to make tough selection decisions for the good of the team, and now is time to make another.

Our defence is so good that scoring just one goal (as we have in six of the last seven matches) is enough to keep the points total ticking over, but he must know as well as the fans do that cracks are being papered over.

Fortunately we are so far clear of third place that there is little risk of the edifice collapsing.

On Saturday I am bringing my 5-year old son to his first game at The Valley, one which has been given a little more spice by virtue of last night's result.

Stevenage are the fittest team in League One, their all-action pressing game incorrectly being mistaken for a 'long ball' one.

They may have one eye on their Cup replay at Spurs, but a win on Saturday could leave them 15 points behind us with two games in hand, depending on tonight's result at Notts County.

Surely this is still a near insurmountable gap, but if Charlton bums do start to get squeaky, we could do without another team ready to gang up on us.


At 12:04 PM, Blogger Hungry Ted said...

Typically brilliant assessment.

Agree with every point other that Hollands being likened to an oil tanker on the move, which is a tad harsh.

For me, Powell made selection errors last night in shuffling players to positions that never suited them. In particular, and as you point out, moving Wiggins was a double blow in both full back areas where it only needed to have been one.

Personally, I'd have played Pritchard at right back (not sure he's ever done so but he appears intelligent enough to do so) and put Evina on the left of midfield (Green would har remained in his normal position).

Anyway, thankfully we are still in a strong position and failure now would not only be unthinkable, it would also be inexcusable!

At 1:13 PM, Blogger ChicagoAddick said...

Agreed. Thanks NYA for your insight as always.

At 4:43 PM, Blogger bristol addick said...

Good analysis as always. Against the superfit Stevenage, we could get overrun in midfield, so should either drop Stephens for Hughes (or Russell) or play 4-5-1. Whilst I never really appreciated Hughes, it's interesting that in his 6 match stint we won all of them, 3 of them 4-0 and one 5-2, goals scored 20, goals against 4. Those were the days!

At 4:50 PM, Blogger New York Addick said...

Bristol Addick, yes I'd spotted that stat thanks and it is amazing - basically Darel Russell came in and immediately replaced Hughes, and we've not been the same team since. Interestingly Hollands also scored three times when partnering Hughes.

The problem with 4-5-1 is who is the '1'? If it's Kermogant then it requires one of the three central midfielders to get up to support him - maybe Stephens can play this role but he looks very out of sorts right now. If not perhaps Pritchard's energy can be useful there. You will recall that Jonjo Shelvey was excellent when deployed in that position.

At 7:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hayes makes us keep the ball on the floor and we need to to do that as soon as possible. Completely agree about the Holland Stephens combo. Hughes was the perfect holding midfielder allowing Hollands some freedom to move forward. At the moment neither is venturing forward enough. I would like Sir Chris to react quicker to what is in front of him - by either changing tactics or changing personnel.

I would like to see Hayes and BWP together again but the growing intolerant minority will get on his back the minute something goes wrong. Speaking of the crowd, I sit in the NW Quad and its hard to find a positive word to say about any of the miserable crew that sit around me. You would think we were battling relegation instead of being clear and we have all witnessed the poisonous impact of negativity on our own players in the past.

That said Sir Chris needs to make a positive change.

I would say:

Hamer, Solly, Morrison, Taylor, Wiggins, Green, Hollands or Stephens, with Hughes or Russell, with Jackson(if fit) or Evina, BWP and Hayes (to be replaced by Kermo if tiring)

At 9:42 PM, Blogger ChicagoAddick said...

^ I think your team selection Anon proves how hard it is for Powell to pick one.


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