Saturday 8 February 2014

Valley of Fear?

At the end of today's 0-2 defeat by Birmingham City, the Bloke Beside Me turned to me and said, 'I am now very fearful.' Earlier this week someone with great experience in football e-mailed me and said, 'I think the rest of the year will be a big uphill battle for a squad that's not of sufficient quality and/or has several new players, plus a manager who is still learning the job and hasn't impressed with tactical dexterity.'

The problem all year, however, has been that the players have not been quite good enough and on today's showing that balance has probably become a little more negative. I thought that in many ways we played fluently and with a good tempo, but we didn't create many chances and those we did we were not able to take advantage of. Possession was 67 per cent to 33 per cent in favour of Charlton and we had eight shots on target to Birmingham's four. Two mistakes gave the visitors their chance to score.

The pitch was probably in a worst condition than at the time of the Barnsley game. All week Charlton supporters had been confident that it would be called off, but my sense was that the club didn't want a repetition of Barnsley and would get it on come what may.

Just before the beginning of the game there was a mixture of sunshine and rain, indeed at one point it was raining at one end of the ground and not at the other. There must have been a rainbow somewhere but what was at its foot: a crock of gold or a crock of something less pleasant? Actually, the worst outfield player on the pitch was Marvin Sordell, not one of our new acquisitions. What summed up the day for me was when he managed to collide with Raz, destroying potentially promising attack. When he was eventually substituted, there was a cheer of relief from the Covered End. I wouldn't have started him and, as it was, Polish Pete only got a cameo giving us no chance to assess his merits or otherwise.

Katrine was at her first home game. Although in the 1950s I was sometimes able to pick out a Gliksten from a similar location on the old East Terrace, I wasn't sure where she was sitting. I don't think she was the lady with the big designer bag which I can't imagine as her style. In any event, she can't have been too pleased by what she saw and may have been tempted to send a message to the 'mother ship' in Liege saying 'beam me up'.

In any event what is very clear is that Roland is no lover of sentiment and tradition and relies heavily on statistics in his decision-making. It is also clear that there is a hierarchy in his clubs. Admittedly, as Voice of the Valley reported today, apparently he will have to pay £4m less if Charlton get relegated. It could still function in League 1 as a development club for Standard Liege, but the route to the Premier League would become much harder.

For one of the small band of Midland Addicks, today was his last home game before he leaves for a life of leisure and luxury in Oman where his wife has been recruited to fill a significant role. He has been asking in his blog what he will miss. Well, one thing I would not miss is making the trek back to the Midlands on a cold and wet day after yet another Charlton home defeat, particularly when the train service from Charlton is below par.

I was sorry to hear from the official site that a Charlton fan had been ejected for directing a racial slur at one of our own players. This is not what we want at Charlton.

The nominal attendance was 15,878, but was certainly much smaller with many fans doubtless being put off by the fear that the match would be postponed at the last minute. However, VOTV revealed that attendances are down 10 per cent year on year over the first 12 home matches, despite the club issuing more complimentary tickets. If you take out away fans, the number of home fans is down 13 per cent or 2,168 per match,a worrying trend.

Ivy the Terrible will be providing her match analysis tomorrow, but in the meantime has asked me to remind people that she is a Belgian Shepherd.

Match analysis

Diego Poyet received warm applause when he was substituted and afterwards was able to take home his first ever Silver Bone to mark his league debut at The Valley. Not only did he show great determination, there was also real skill. It was a very mature performance for someone who has inherited football skill, as well as developing it. Roland intends not to sell home talent as quickly as in the past, so hopefully we will see him for some time to come. I have noted quite a division among fans about the performance of Morrison. The young lad two seats down was angry when he was given a yellow card, but I thought that it was quite justified for a blatant foul when he had failed to check the opposition player. I thought it was a poor performance in terms of decision-making, tactics and speed. I know that he is not an attacking player, but he often acts like one (as no doubt he is told to do) and I thought that his distribution in the box was poor. In contrast I thought that Wood was composed and professional, but he did give away the foul that led to the first goal. Evina really had a mare. Twice his poor defending put the goalkeeper under real pressure. Wilson put himself about and showed some real skill at times, although often he had few options because he was boxed in by two or three opposition players. Jackson is, I am afraid, a bit of a problem. He lacks pace and didn't contribute much. Even his free kick did not come off. Cousins was energetic as ever. There is just a doubt about whether he and Poyet offer something rather similar, although Cousins was playing out on the right. He also missed a chance to score when Ajdarevic released him, but his low drive was saved. I had heard Ajdarevic dismissed as useless before the game, but I formed the opposite opinion. He is a big lad and he was all over the pitch getting involved. In fact, he clearly got to some of the Blues players because he was the target of off the ball incidents and a really nasty foul. He also has some real skill and it is not his fault that Sordell could not take advantage of his balls. An acrobatic volley was one of the few Charlton attempts that really tested Randolph. At the end of the match he sunk to the pitch in front of the East Stand in real despair. Reza is another player who in my view could be a real asset. He does actually act as if he was a centre forward and also put in some good crosses, one of which the hapless Sordell was unable to take advantage of. He is full of running, but he needs someone better to play with him. Sordell is, I am afraid, not up to the task. On three occasions he was in a key attacking position with someone in a better place to go on and score yet in all three situations he went for glory and the attack died out. He is not a team player and does not give one hundred per cent. I have left Thuram-Ulien to last. One fan commented that he was the worst keeper he had seen in 59 years following Charlton. Well, maybe. He did actually distribute the ball quite well by throwing it out and I think that the kicking off the pitch in the second half was due to the wind. When he did punch out from a corner it was very effective. However, he clearly has a problem with gathering the ball which is a basic flaw for a keeper. For the first goal the free kick was excellent and was deflected by the wind. He knew that he should have done better with the second goal, indeed one could almost see him mouthing 'M****'. In contrast the performance of Randolph was very composed. I was always thought he was a better goalkeeper than Elliott who was cut a lot of slack because he was a local lad. Green was a disaster when he came on. First, he drifted way over to the left, then he tried to be clever with the ball in a way that he is not capable of, gave away possession and set up the decisive second goal. Up to then we might still have a got a draw. Church didn't make much difference when he came on. Peter the Pole was given no chance to make an impression.

Rescue Cat Reg has given the Hiss of the Match to South-Eastern Railways for operating a reduced service from Charlton (no special) and hence delaying his evening meal.

Big Dave Lockwood

The announcer has been awarded a commemorative Silver Biscuit for the way in which he pronounced all the names. I was a bit disappointed that he didn't say, 'Mesdames et messieurs, c'est la Vallée.


Iain Ambler said...

Wyn, an interesting take on today's game, and the situation at large.

I'm trying to keep optimistic about the future as I can see some great promise out there on the pitch - Poyet gives me hope for starters. We just need to play as a team and not as a bunch of talented individuals. It allows the opposition to get the better of us.

From our seats in the Covered End (not as covered as we would like when it was pleuting) we thought the new boys and recent academy graduates showed some class, although we would have preferred Hamer to our new keeper, so are wishing him a speedy recovery from injury. The departure of Sordell was welcomed but we were wishing it had been 15 - 20 minutes earlier on in the game.

The main criticism against Sir Chris seems to be over the position/starting lineup and the timing of substitutions.

The article in the CAS Trust News today seems to indicate that Roland has little time for sentiment and tradition, and favours squad rotation. That is probably as hard for Sir Chris to swallow as it is for lifetime fans of CAFC, but perhaps that approach might ensure success? It seems to have been initially unwelcome from Standard Liege fans, but given that club's current form, maybe it's not as big a Valley of Fear as at first sight.

What is important is that we don't enter into the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The financial situation of the club seems to be more certain from a long-term perspective, and from what I've read about Roland he doesn't seem to be looking to make a fast buck (or indeed Euro) out of CAFC.

I still think we need a good three games to judge where we are headed. If we don't see improvement, I think RD will prove he is not sentimental and will move Sir Chris on, and it is not likely to bode well for some of the older squad members whose contracts will expire in the summer either.

Haven't had a chance to read your article in VOTV yet, but am looking forward to doing so over what's left of the weekend.

Wyn Grant said...

Interesting comment. I think there are a lot of positives about the new regime and it's too soon to make a balanced judgment, but initial opinions are unavoidable. The article by the Belgian journalist in the CAS Trust News was very informative and also, I think, authoritative. I had to dash my article off in a hour or so when the Rickster was let down by one contributor, so it's a bit speculative, although I like to think that I know Belgium quite well as it is one of three other countries in which I have worked.

Anonymous said...

You say "we didn't create many chances"? The stats show that we had 21 shots with 8 on target.

Now lets look at the previous League games (admittedly you can't draw direct comparisons with away matches and/or without 11 players on the pitch). Latest first, we have:

5 shots, 2 on target
4, 0
7, 2
11, 3
12, 3
9, 4
11, 4

So 21/8 is HUGELY better than previously. OK, that doesn't tell the whole story... 2 shots on target in a whole match can result in 2 goals, but on the basis of the stats alone, that was a better Charlton match than the previous eight.

Not trying to make any excuses... it was still a poor match, poor marking for the first goal (only three defenders went with 5 (6?) runners) and one careless giving the ball away in midfield led to the second. Of the eight on target we had, I can only recall one requiring a particular good save...

addickted2charlton said...

Yeah well under the old regime at least ourn were winnin the odd game under this new one iss all goin backwards n thass cos they sold our best players n got in ones who aint up to a relegation battle cos less face it thass where ourn are at the moment. You need results dahn the bottom n good passages of play aint enough n I feel sorry for CP cos e's bearin the brunt of their uge mistakes n failure to back im in keepin Stephens, Kermorgant et al n then bringin in dudds like wot we've got now.

Wyn Grant said...

I think there is a difference between what is recorded as a shot on target and a real chance and this is reflected in what you say in your last sentence. A relatively weak shot straight at the keeper presumably counts as a shot on target. In some respects the performance was encouraging, in particular we held the ball better. But there is still a concern about what happens in the final third. The only stats that really count at the end of the day are goals and that has been our problem all season.