Tuesday, 8 November 2011

A settled side

Our current fine form has coincided with a relatively settled side that has been largely picking itself - doesn't it always?

When we started the season we wondered whether Reading's former third choice goalkeeper would get the nod over Millwall's old reserve stopper. Hamer has won the day and established himself although he has yet to win me over completely. He has benefitted from a very capable and settled back four.

Rhoys Wiggins has anchored the left-back position for himself and his ability to overlap and deliver pinpoint crosses on the run has made him our best buy of the Summer in my mind. He is my Player of the Year although it will be very difficult to deny Mr Wright-Phillips if he continues to plunder goals at his current rate. Rhoys looks very capable of playing at the highest level and I guess we shouldn't be too surprised that Chris Powell has unearthed a gem in his old position.

In the middle, Morrison and Taylor have established a formidable understanding and look in no threat from Doherty, Cort or Mambo. Morrison has far more touches than Taylor and appears to make most of the last ditch tackles and stops but Taylor is extremely effective if you watch him. Both of them started the first half-a-dozen matches with what I am sure was a deliberate one-touch policy to put every ball that came their way into touch. It had the effect of slowing attacks and it minimised the numbers of goals we conceded. Since then they have been given license to play as they have got to know each other and they are now moving instinctively when one of them has the ball to make space for the other and they have developed an understanding with Hamer for back-passes.

At right back, Chris Solly has made it his own and I, for one, am pleased about that. I don't buy the lack of height argument and Solly has been one of our most consistent performers. We are finally loaning Simon Francis out to Bournemouth which leaves us no other recognised right-back although Michael Morrison did a decent job at Stevenage, even if he would have been better employed in central defence. A professional right-back cover for Solly must be a high priority.

In central midfield it looked like Dale Stephens and Danny Hollands had cracked it but I felt teams were learning to neutralise them shortly before Stephens' injury and we have looked surprisingly more effective with Andy Hughes in the middle. Hughes is a natural defender and he plays like one in the centre. His usual stance is with both arms down and out as he shuffles left and right to mark space and prevent the through-ball. He is also a "talker" and a very vocal one at that. He was shouting at everyone on Saturday and they all appeared to be listening which was all the more impressive. He could be a more obvious choice as captain if he can hold his place. Dales Stephens is currently undergoing an ankle operation but will surely challenge again when fit although it would be hard to justify dropping Hughes at the moment. He has certainly given Hollands a tad more confidence to express himself as we saw on Saturday.

From the other central midfield options, Bradley Pritchard has looked like being capable of offering something different and Bover Izquierdo has potential. Only Alonso has looked poor although fitness may have had something to do with that horror showing against Brentford in the JPT. I was told that he has since left the club?

On the left flank Johnnie Jackson has no serious challenger and his best competition comes from Wiggins who appears to have as many assists to his name as Jackson. On the other side, we don't appear settled yet as Wagstaff and Green battle it out. Green has a better cross but lacks Wagstaff's impact and has been guilty of wasting matches since making first-choice. We have to see more threat from both of them.

Upfront, Bradley Wright-Phillips has been a revelation and his goals are propping up the current revival that promises to turn into our first promotion season of the 21st Century. He has genuine first five yard pace and he has a goalscorer's instinct. The dream is of goal-scoring paring in the mould of Hales and Flanagan. Paul Hayes made an honest job of trying to do that but has come up short of the mark so far. To be fair to him, he is a seasoned pro and has never struck the high notes so he's hardly under-performing at the Valley. He may yet have an important back-up role to play this season in getting us promoted.

What you hope when you sign a journeyman is that you get that bit more out of him than anyone has managed before. That's precisely the case with Yann Kermorgant who looks like he's playing the best football since coming to the English league in 2009. More importantly, Kermorgant looks highly efficient in the air and has developed a goalscoring partnership that is bringing the best out of Wright-Phillips.

Paul Benson has become a forgotten man since the arrival of Hayes and Kermorgant and he can have few complaints. Another Honest Joe but not in the class of Wright-Phillips or Kermorgant and possibly even Hayes. I have to mention Jason Euell, whose signing is looking increasingly indulgent with every substitute appearance he makes. He adds very little and certainly minimal goal threat. I'm sure he's a good character to have around the club and his experience invaluable but he is clearly well passed his best. In the nicest possible way, I hope we don't see him start another game in a Charlton shirt and that his substitute appearances are all when we are winning games and not chasing them.

There is already talk of us strengthening in the January transfer window and it's always good if you can do it. However, I would rather we avoid any long-term injuries and any significant disruption to what is looking like a settled squad by limiting any January transfer activity. Right-back cover looks a priority (if not addressed before then) - beyond that we would need to spend in order to improve on what we have got.


Anonymous said...

Great blog! Thanks - as an Addicks fan living up north it's good to keep up to date with current events - the Football League Show is hardly sufficient when I only get to 3-4 games a season!

Anonymous said...

I think that's a great summary. I agree with all of it is another way of saying that I guess!!

As far as I'm aware, Alonso is still around. Indeed, I wouldn't be surprised to see him start on Sunday.

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog Dave - think we might need to look at another proven striker in Jan too as cover for BWP.

Hungry Ted said...

Great summary. I believe this Charlton team look a whole lot fitter than the last few years, which is another significant reason for our up-turn in fortune.