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Friday, September 29, 2006

Arsenal - Last Stop on the Roa

The Arse. Not a nice name for a football club but I´m sure they don´t mind what we call them. Especially as this weekend they´ll be shitting all over us again as usual.
OK, its not a foregone conclusion, anything can happen in football but we don´t have any Di Canio´s, Jenson´s or even Euell´s anymore. Since 2001, we´d had rather a bad run against them that now extends to, I believe, 9 games.

But I don´t mind. I´d rather be playing The Arse than.... for example...... Barnsley. All respects to Barnsley, I´m sure they´re a very nice club. But back in the bad old days of lower division football they were always the the sort of perfect illustration of where exactly we were in life - in the same league as Barnsley. Kind of said it all really.

So its with some delight that after browsing Colin Camerons brillant thome I can now inform everyone that we have played The Arse more times than we have played Barnsley. Where did I put those numbers? Can´t find them now but you can check yourself or take my word for it.

So as for todays result. I don´t care. It´ll be Charlton Playing the Arse, and dear old Barnsley will be somewhere else .

Thursday, September 28, 2006

What a Character.

When I made some recent remarks about "thriving on adversity", I was referring, of course, to the man in charge. He´s the one making the decisions, he´s the one that gets all the praise - God forbid - and also all the shit.

But, as you all can appreciate, it also applies to all of us. We can scream and shout - Get Rid of the Useless Bastard - for all the good it will do, or we can keep our mouths shut. There´s not a lot of other useful things we can do really.

If we really can´t handle it I suppose we could run away, go and follow some winners. Drive over to the Arse or save up to watch Chelski. Get enthusiastic about the Hotspurs or the Hammers. Or even better we could get on one of those buses that travel all the way to Manchester to support a real Big Team. You can all suit yourselves.

We´re supporters. Thats what you´re called if you follow a team. We don´t pick the team, although we pretend to every Saturday morning, we don´t buy the players, and we don´t run the club. We just pay up and watch. If we don´t like it we can go somewhere else and watch. If we want.

And there´s really only one man, and his players, that can do something about the situation, at least we hope he can, we cannot. All we have to do is handle the disappointment the best we can.

So its good to read the Official Reports from the "Charlton Chief" and hear that he, at least, is still upbeat about the current situation. And willing to take whatever blame, if thats the right word, for the state we´re in.

"I've got no concerns about the lads' commitment and if anyone is to blame then it's me. We've had a disappointing start but we have to get on with it and get over it."

"It's much sweeter when you overcome adversity,"
he added. "Character is what you show when things aren't going right, not when they are.

"Anyone can show character when everything is rosy in the garden so now we will see what the character of everyone, including myself, the staff and the players, is all about.

"If we stick together we will be fine."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Crumbs of Comfort

In difficult times such as these, we are all in need of something to raise the spirits. A couple of beers maybe or a few days off. And, of course, next week our prayers are answered in one respect as its an "International break", that time when our better players get to forget boring league games and hopefully jet off to more exotic climes.

As for ourselves, a couple of beers later, and we´re still in need of something to lift us so its back to searching the papers for more crumbs of comfort as we perversely case our beedy eyes over our peers in search of other hard luck stories.

Some of us are obviously suffering from our recent results but its worth remembering that in an environment where only one team can win, it´s usually true that there will be other teams that are also performing "badly". How you can quantity "badly" is open to question. Compare points, player scores, shots on target, even corners but however you do it there are obvious candidates for worst team of the weekend and it wasn´t us.

The pick of the crop over the weekend were london rivals Spurs and West Ham, neither of which managed a shot on target, according to the Guardian anyway, in their games against either Liverpool or Man. City. Both are slipping down the table, with "big-team" Spurs now down in 17th place with only 4 points to show from their 6 games and more significantly only 2 goals scored. In their 6 games, Spurs have failed to score against fulham, bolton, everton, manure, and liverpool and in their only win got 2 against lowly sheff.utd.

So its not all bad news and while Spurs bemoan the loss of Lennon as the reason for it all, I can´t believe that any other team has 7 potencial first-teamers out through injury.

Further afield, Middlesbro, in 16th position, were also found wanting against Blackburn with their entire front line of Parnaby, Mendieta, Aiyegbeni, Jason Euell and Morrison all receiving an equally appalling score of 4 each from the Guardian scorer. And they couldn´t score goals either. Since the 22 July, Middlesbrough have played 13 games, including friendlies, failed to score 9 times, managed only 7 goals in 1170 minutes, and won only twice.

Over the same period the Addicks have played 12 games ( including friendlies), won 4, failed to score 4 times and netted 14 goals. The bad news, of course, is that we don´t play them until 23 Dec.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Heads Up Lads - Only One More Hill to Climb

When things get a little bit difficult its easy to see that different people will react in different ways. Some will sit there nervously not knowing what to do, others will start to loss control and scream and shout to get rid of the pressure while others who cannot handle it either will just get up and walk away. There will be some, however, a minority admittingly, that will seem to thrive on the adversity, that will actually go looking for problems. For these few people a problem is a challenge, a solution waiting to be found.

Given the state we are in at the moment it can´t be long before we´ll be able to place Monica in the appropriate category. But it´ll be the players that will have the first chance to see how he handles the pressure. And this mornings session will be very important for them all.

So what´s our Monica going to say this morning, always assuming, of course, that he gave the boys a day off yesterday.

The first thing he´ll be doing is sitting them down and showing them the Premiership table. A nice big picture, in fact, so that the "Big Picture" can be appreciated.

They wouldn´t need telling where they are in the table, down there at the bottom. But it´ll be the other end of the table that he´ll be pointing to.

He´ll stand at the front with his chest out and imagine he´s Hannibal with one last Alp to cross before Rome, he´ll pretend he´s Montgomery facing Rommell demanding one last push from his men and he´ll be saying:

“Thank God we´re got rid of that lot”, he´ll be saying. “Now just one more to go, next weekend, and then we can really start the season.”

He will then point out that the top four ( he´ll be using the Sunday´s table before Everton moved up to 4th) have played 23 games and only lost 2 of them so we´re not alone in losing these games. Its just unfortunate that we had to play all 4 in our first 6 games. He´ll explain that last seasons games against the same teams won us just 5 points, only 2 more than we currently have and we scored the same number of goals - 4. The minus 11 goals that we now have he´ll explain as being mainly due to the 10 man 3-1 defeat at West Ham, where last year we managed a boring 0-0 draw.

He will then point to the coming fixtures for the months of October and November where we have 5 sucessive games against clubs more on our level, all in the bottom half of the table. Its these 5 games against, Fulham, Watford, Newcastle, Man.City and Wigan that will define our season.

"These are the important games
", he´ll be saying. "Middle of October we´ll start to ease our injury list and thats the time to start playing".

And like a tennis player 5-1 down with one set left to play, he´ll tell them that we´re going to relax and enjoy the visit of Arsenal at the weekend as they are going to save themselves for the important set.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Villa 2 The Addicks 0

So what else could the man do? Plagued with injuries to key players purchased during the summer and against another team cruising at the moment his opinions were extremely limited.

He could have put the Herminator in defence instead of Fortune and chanced Ashton at left-back. In midfield he could have played Kish who was keen to compare himself against his fellow countryman Petrov in the Villa midfield and with hindsight, ( a wonderful thing that ), he could have kept Simon Walton instead of packing him off to Ipswich till January. But with our dynamic H & H duo in midfield it was a game that we were always likely to lose, especially with our strikeforce also having an apparent off day.

Perhaps Monica should watch his opponent and learn. When O'Neill took over Villa they were everyones favorite to go down and now after only 1 signing, Petrov, they remain unbeaten. So take a leaf out of O'Neill´s book and see what he´s done with Gabriel Agbonlahor. After making his Premiership debut in March the nineteen year old has played in every game since O'Neill took over, and yesterday played with a confidence that won him the Man of the Match award in the Observer.

Perhaps with so much missing in effort and confidence its time to try the same with some of our youngsters, for example striker James Walker, who had such a good pre-season up front, at least for the last 25 minutes when the game was lost anyway.

Charlton: Carson; Young, Hreidarsson, El Karkouri, Fortune; Rommedahl, Faye, Holland (Ambrose 66), Hughes; Hasselbaink (M Bent 66), D Bent.
Subs (not used): Myhre, Sankofa, Kishishev.
Booked: Faye 90 (foul on Petrov)

Aston Villa: Sorensen; Hughes, Barry, Mellberg, Ridgewell, Moore (Baros 82), Davis, Petrov, McCann, Agbonlahor; Angel.
Subs (not used): Taylor, Laursen, Whittingham, Berger.

Goals: Agbonlahor 34, Moore 62

Friday, September 22, 2006

Villa Preview

After playing, and losing to the top three teams in the Premiership we now face the team in 5th spot - Aston Villa. And at the moment Frankie V´s prediction of an opening 8 game losing run don´t seem so far of the mark.

As the Addicks approach nearly a year without an away win - Portsmouth October 22nd last year - its another difficult game against improved Aston Villa. A long pre-season which saw many marked them down as relegation certainies, it all changed when Martin O´Neill arrived. They are unbeaten in 5 games and have won their last 4 games at Villa Park. Just the right time to catch them then.


Our record at Villa Park is not good to say the least with only 4 wins and 7 draws in the 26 games and its no consolation to say that I saw one of the victories. And overall we can´t claim to be one of their boogy teams with only 14 wins in the 52 games played.

Talk The Talk
Head Coach Monica explains That: "We need to go up to Villa and make sure that when we have the ball we are very positive and when we're out of possession we will be nice and dogged." Seem to remember similar words expressed before the Chelski game so at least the boss is consistent.

The Addicks
The Herminator returns and starts to ease our selection worries and he, Scott Carson and probably Jimmy-Floyd will be the changes from Tuesdays game against Carlisle.

As for the subs bench, one look at the injury list and obviously it´ll be full of youngsters. Out through injury are Sorondo, Gibbs, Diawara, Reid, Pouso, Thomas and with the midfield duo of Holland and Hughes also sadly (!) doubtful. And Young and Ambrose are both carrying injuries. Did I miss anyone?

Good old Lawro thankfully sees it as a 2-1 home ( he apparently got 2 right last week).
Mine: God knows how and why but 1-1

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Carlisle Preview

No I´m not going either. But I hope our players turn up, for defeat today would be a calamity. I know Monica will be thinking of Saturday and the trip to Aston Villa but the consequences of losing at home to a Division 1 team would trouble him more.

Players need to win regularly to transfer the confidence that the Coach spends so much effort installing on the training ground onto the pitch and defeat today will continue to erode much of the positive talk from Monica. Third from bottom in the league, 4 defeats from 5 games and only 2 goals scored from open play so don´t tell me tonight is only a cup game. A win is badly needed right now.

Rest Young and Jimmy-Floyd if you must and give Myhre a game if you have to - but for the rest it has to be your strongest team. Not a lot of choices available but a continuation of last Saturdays second half effort is definitely required.

Pray for the broken toe and continue with Fortune in defence with Kish, El Karkouri, and Ashton. After Saturday Faye must be in midfield and encouraged to continue his second-half performance against Portsmouth, out wide Rommedahl and Ambrose, and one from Hughes ( carrying an injury), Holland (ditto) and Pouso (struggling with english football).

Up front the two Bents and how about putting James Walker on the bench. He´s got things to prove.Well, OK, Kevin as well.

Prediction? A nervy 2-1

Monday, September 18, 2006

Dowie Stars as "The Cincinnati Kid"

So the old geezer with the twitch wins again over the brash youngster. The old movies always used to got it right and it was just like the film “The Cincinnatti Kid” where Steve McQueen and Edward G Robinson faced each other over the poker table. Now it was the 59 year old Cockney against the young 41 year old Monica from Hatfield. And at the Valley on Saturday the outcome was exactly the same.

The early play belonged to the experienced head of Harry and his players demonstrated why they are so well placed in the Premiership. Confident and always able to find one another they really should have gone ahead when, after a cross from the right, Kanu rose higher than Kish at the far post but saw his header flash just wide. The youngster was riding his luck all right.

Forced into the desperate measure of playing three forwards due to the morning injury to midfielder Brian Hughes and now seeing that his midfield was under too much pressure, at half time Monica showed his coolness, removing Marcus Bent and bringing on Jonathan Fortune, a defender with a broken toe, but thereby allowing Amady Faye to move up to midfield.

Faye came more into the game and began at last to show the skills and determination that had persuaded Monica to part with a cool 2M during the summer. He started to control the midfield against his former South Coast teammates and the home side started to look strong and were forcing Portsmouth back into their own half.

The broken toe of Fortune seemed to be coping with the fewer attacks that Portsmouth could generate in the second half and the longer the game when on the more the play belonged to the Addicks.

On 57 minutes the Uruguayan Omar Pouso was withdrawn and replaced by Matt Holland and with an hour of the match over there seemed to be only one possible winner. Panic started to show in the Portsmouth rearguard, crucial blocks were having to be made and a shot by Rommedahl flew inches wide.

The pressure was now on the old geezer to do something to rectify matters and on 64 minutes he responded by switching his cards, exchanging one striker for another. Ten short minutes later and the game was over.

A low drive from the substitute and the ball ended up in the back of the net diverted off Scott Carsons clawing fingers. A quick Lua-Lua and the old man was taking home the spoils. A low pair had secured the points.

Suitable Quotes from the Film/Game
Lancey played by Harry: Gets down to what it's all about, doesn't it? Making the wrong move at the right time.
Cincinnati Kid played by Monica: Is that what it's all about?
Lancey/Harry: Like life, I guess. You're good, kid, but as long as I'm around you're second best. You might as well learn to live with it.

Charlton: Carson; Kishishev (Lisbie 80), Young, El Karkouri, Faye; Rommedahl, Pouso (Holland 57), Hasselbaink, Ambrose; M Bent (Fortune 46), D Bent.
Subs (not used): Myhre, Ashton.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Jovial Dane? Who's This Then?

A good pre-season when he featured in most of the fixtures has not been reflected in the number of games that Dennis Rommedahl has played now that the Premiership has kicked off. However, this doesn't seem to have upset the Dane. After finding himself left out of the side he insists that he never considered a departure from The Valley.

Apparently he's in a jovial mood after his performance in the Chelski game "I heard a good rumour about four days after the transfer deadline, Stephan [Andersen] called me and said he'd heard that I was on my way to Russia, which I found quite funny. I've never been on my way to any other club from here. I had a good pre-season in my eyes for Charlton. The only bad thing was when the real games started to come up in the Premiership I didn't play. But that's life and I'm just hoping to prove now that I'm good enough to be playing in the team.”

And this is what he had to say on todays game: "Every game is important, but a home game against Portsmouth must be a winnable game."

And there's more positive talk from Monica as he gets everyone in the right mood for this afternoons, sorry, this mornings game against Pompey. Never one to be despondent, he's remarkably upbeat about his problems.

"Clearly the injuries are a set back but our glass is still half full,” he said.

"I think the players should feel a lot of pride, outside the first 20 minutes at Chelsea, which was not what we're about. We weren't switched on, we weren't at it, we didn't pressurise and we didn't pass the ball well. But after that it was a very even game and in the second half we had huge periods where we controlled possession.

And just to pre-warn us of the side that we can expect to see today he added: "We've been disrupted by injuries, but it'll give some of the others a chance. I'm looking forward to seeing how some of the fringe players in the squad, or who have been thus far, respond."

Friday, September 15, 2006

Portsmouth Preview

Next up are young Harrys boys from Portsmouth who visit us tomorrow at the rather strange time of 12.45. Must be on TV then.

Much like the Addicks last year, they'd had an easy start to the season with not too much in the way of quality to face so far and have made the most of the opportunity to get points on the board. Despite Blackburns 5-0 trashing of the same New Zealand that we could only draw with, they were easy prey for Portsmouth in their opening game and were beaten 3-0. After a goalless draw away to Man. City, they then travelled to the Riverside and demolished Middlesbro 4-0 before returning home last weekend to beat Wigan 1-0. So 4 games, 10 points, 8 goals scored and none conceded.

The History
We've been catching up during the Premiership years but overall we're still behind.
League: Played: 94, Wins 31 wins, Draws 25, Lost 38.
At Charlton: Wins 19 wins, Draws 15, Lost 13.

Talk The Talk
Can't find any quotes by Monica this week. He's got too much thinking to do, I fancy, to have time to be talking to the press, internal or external.

The Opposition
No goals conceded seems to be because of a strengthing of the defence by new signings Campbell and James, with our old boy Linvoy Primus filling in beside Campbell and full-back Glen Johnson, on loan from Chelsea. Seems we're not the only ones with left-back trouble as club captain, Serbian Stefanovic seems to have broken a toe and will be missing while up front they have recruited from West Brom Kanu who has been knocking the goals in with 4 to date. Alongside him will probably be Pompeys biggest signing, the tall Benjani Mwaruwari , the captain of Zimbabwe no less, that they bought from Auxerre in January for £4M.

The Addicks

So what team are we going to put out against a side that has conceded no goals and scored 8? With 7 players in the medical centre and the Herminator sitting in the stands for 2 more games its even more of a conundrum than Monica faced against Chelski.

The key to the solution has to be who to play at left-back. Once that's been sorted out the rest will fall into place, (forgetting the midfield, of course). If Ashton plays, then the back four will be Young, El Karkouri, Faye and Ashton thus freeing-up Kish for midfield. If Young switches to the left, then the back four will read Kish, El Karkouri, Faye and Young. Either way Faye will be at centre-back as there's nobody else available.

The warning of two pulled hamstrings in 30 minutes against Chelski will probably mean no appearance of Pouso although with the strengths (!) of our midfield a place on the bench cannot be ruled out. And with Andy Reid also gone AWOL ( was it Martin Jol who said he was always injured ) it'll probably mean another start - wait for it - for the infamous duo of Holland and Hughes.

After his recent performances, for club and country, it seems odds-on that Dennis Rommedahl will start and with Darren Ambrose the only other fit person about he'll no doubt be on the left of midfield.
Up front, no prizes for guessing, its jimmy and darren with 4 goals between them and raring to go against an unbeaten, so far, defence.

Dear old Lawro gives us an outside chance with a 1-1 draw while pedro45 goes with a 2-1 home.

Mine? Don't know why, and its a bit worryingly that despite our injuries and H&H in midfield nobody foresees a demoralising defeat but for me, 1-0 to the Addicks.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Debut For Nathan?

What was it that the pundits used to say? If you're old enough, you're good enough. No, that wasn't it. If you're good enough, you're old enough, that was it.

So, perhaps its time to see how good is our 19 year-old left-back Nathan Ashton by playing him in the game on Saturday. An alarming absence of left-backs, with the invisible Cory Gibbs and the hapless Djimi Traore both out injured while the Herminator is still banned for 2 more games after his sending-off against Bolton leaves us with surely no other choice. Unless we can persuade Watford to give us Chrissie Powell back on loan that is, why did he ever go ( and Chris Perry, come to think of it ).

Well, the other possibility and the easy option for Monica would be to switch Luke Young to left-back, where he played for the last half-an-hour against Chelski after Traore went off. This would, of course, leave us naked in midfield with Kish at right-back and Faye at central defence. Oh, dear, I can feel my migraine returning.

To remind everyone, Nathan Ashton is an England Under 19 international that played 17 Reserve appearances last season and was given plenty of experience during the pre-season games. He played 360 minutes during pre-season at left-back, a total bettered only in defence by the Herminator and Luke Young. He played against all the top teams that we encountered, Utrecht, Germinal, New Zealand, Valencia, Hibs and Millwall playing the full match against both Valencia and New Zealand.

Go on, give him a chance..

Champions League? Dream On

Now really Charlton news, but as I can remember the days when the nearest thing we came to European competition was when we played Newport County at the Valley, they having just played in the Cup Winners Cup, First Round that is, I going to indulge myself. After his lucky win over us at the weekend, I see that Jose M is quoted as saying that there are around 10 teams that are capable of winning this years Champions League. I think he should think again.

After seeing the holders Barcelona on TV help themselves to 5 goals in the pouring rain against Levski Sofia, there's only team that going to win it. Peaking too early you might say - well Chelski and the others can only hope, or is it pray, but if anything Barcelona look to have improved from last years team.

Thuram, Lilian to his friends, has jumped ship from Juve and has added more composure to the back four while Gudjohnsen has arrived from Chelski to cover for Eto'o. Zambrotta has also arrived but could only warm the bench.

And also sitting on the bench and not needed, was wonder-boy Messi, and Spanish national team playmaker Javi ( for an hour anyway).

The goals came from all over the place, right, left and centre with even Pujol getting in on the act. OK, they were helped by some goalkeeping that we don't expect from Scott Carson, but they still looked pretty impressive and it'll be very hard to prevent them winning it again.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

"Smallest" Club No More

Trying to avoid the problematic thoughts of Team Selection and how to form an adequate defence with only 2 defenders for the game against high-flying Portsmouth I turned my attention to other matters. Flicking through the Sporting Life as one does, I noticed that several clubs were having trouble with low attendances during the first few weeks of the season. Only two games played so its early days yet but due to the arrival of two "small" clubs, Watford and Reading, and the relegation of Birmingham and Sunderland we can now claim more ( average ) bums on seats than 7 other teams in the Premiership.

Although Sheffield United, long starved of Premiership fare since their relegation in 1994, have bigger gates than us with an surprising average of 30800, both Watford (average 18898) and Reading (23974) lag behind us. Add to these the stay-at-home towns of Bolton (22020), Blackburn (20706), Portsmouth (19515), Fulham (18460), and Wigan (14636) and that should put us with our average of 24530 currently 13th in the "Attendance League".

The big boys way out in front are, of course, Manure and Arsenal with those 50,000 mad Georgies in third place. In the 40,000 are Chelski, Liverpool and Everton while in mid-table are obviously all the others.

All this won't give Monica any pleasure but at least Richard Murray can now promote little-old-Charlton as the 13th Biggest Club in the country so keeping those important sponsors and advertisers happy. All we need now is some more points to make sure we stay where we are...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Numbers Game

Football used to be about playing a game every weekend. Dull perhaps but nice and simple. Two points for a win and one for a draw - no transfer windows where you have to keep track of how much we've spent that we haven't got and no worrying about Work Permits where someone pays for us and then has to go home again.

Nowadays its all about numbers. Huge numbers. Chelsea spend £130 million of old Russian money and some guy called Rio F gets paid £120,000 per week just for strolling about. He must be good. Even the ex-England manager Sven, though he´s presently not working of course, is being paid by our very own FA a cool £13,000 a DAY till sometime next year. Less than Rio I know but at least Sven can get his lying down. Lying down on who I don't pretend to know.
But until Chelski manage to change the rules, its still 11 players against 11 and its therefore refreshing to see that Martin O´Neill can change Aston Villa from being odds-on for relegation to a team in mid-table in a matter of weeks. Thats one less team below us then.

So to make us all feel just a little bit better, I thought I´d look at the stats from last weekends games to see if any numbers can be made to look good for us. At a loose end and clearly bored with life I decided to add up all the players scores awarded in Mondays Guardian and found that we totalled 65 for the team. Adding up the rest I found that only 4 teams, Bolton, West Ham, Arsenal and Liverpool, of the eighteen teams playing over the weekend had less. Rather worryingly, in the top six scorers were Watford and Sheff. Utd with 73 and 71 respectively. What does it all mean?

Who were our top scoring players, you might be asking? Jimmy-Floyd, Scott Carson and Brian Hughes all got 7 out of 10. JF against his former club, Scott for his many saves including the penalty from Lampard and the indefatigable Hughes desperately fighting for his place with Omar presumably watching from the wings.

On a brighter note, our high-scoring "passing" score of 78% presumably means that we at least completed most of our passing. In fact, only 3 teams, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manure had a higher passing score.

Our total shots was rather less impressive with 5. So despite our successful passing, presumably mosting backwards, only one team, Middlesbro, at Arsenal, managed less shots. Spurs equalled us with 5 shots at Old Trafford thus adequately demonstrating the 3 most difficult places to visit are Arsenal, Manure and Chelski.

And Monica´s request prior to the game to be horrible obviously wasn´t read by the players as our total number of fouls – 9 - was only bettered (!) by those nice boys at Arsenal who had 8.

Everton, in their derby with Liverpool, get the award for top performance of the week. They had the highest player total score of 79, the most fouls 23, only managed 6 shots but scored from half of them and the highest number of goals scored 3.

Not to be taken seriously, of course, this is all very objective and suspect and please don't encourage the kids to do it as they really should be doing something more constructive.

And to add to the confusion, the sportinglife comes up with different numbers, giving us different shot totals - obviously two of our "off-target" shots were rather near the corner flag and therefore didn't qualify.

Searching for other numbers to cheer us up I found that Blackburn, Sheff. Utd and Man. City are all having trouble scoring, as they´ve all only scored once in their 4 games. Spurs and Arsenal have only scored twice each. This seems to be one statistic that doesn´t lie, the teams scoring the most goals, Manure, Portsmouth, Everton and Chelsea all sit at the top of the league.

But at least Monica´s more adventurous 4-4-2 is getting us goals. In fact, in the bottom half of the table only Middlesbro have scored more goals than we have, although to further illustrate that nothing comes cheaply we both also have the biggest minus goal difference.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Chelski 2 Charlton 1

A defeat is bad news in anyones book so its time to look around this Sunday morning for scraps of consolation in any form before we put this game behind us.

The first result that appears is from Scouseland and I suppose it must be pretty shitty this morning to be a Liverpool supporter. Hammered seems the appropriate word, 3-0 in their worst derby result for 42 years but of course someone elses misery doesn't help us much.

The official cafc report cheers us up a bit but can never be taken too seriously especially when defeat is concerned.

The independent is more level-headed in its mood with a headline of "Chelsea ride their luck after dominating first period" and gives good write-ups to Scott Carson for "an assured display" and Dennis Rommedahl who apparently had a good afternoon after replacing Andy Reid that included the cross for Jimmy-Floyds goal. Such a well-taken goal and, with Hasselbaink not chosing to celebrate the event, he was even applauded by the Chelsea fans, a rare event indeed.

The telegraph spends more time boring us about a substitute called Cole rather than telling us how the game went but does say that we were a little hard done by to have the "equaliser" by Marcus Bent ruled out for hand-ball.

The Sporting Life tells us we not only lost 2-1 in goals, but cheers us up by reminding us that we also lost 6-3 in corners, 2-1 in yellow cards, and 6-2 in shots on target.

The guardian as usual is the most biased against us ( strange that ) and gives it easily to Chelski.

On the team front, Monica had, unsurprisingly, chosen to remain with his favorite 4-4-2 that included only one change for the Bolton game, that of Diawara in defence in place of the Herminator, and so included the ubiquitous Brian Hughes. No sign of the late signing, Omar Pouso, and the doubts of another paperwork rejection comes to mind.

And it seems we have more bad news awaiting us next week with the injuries to Diawara and Reid. These have clearly upset Monica "both are muscular injuries. I hate muscular injuries and its something we strive to prevent. It's no coincidence that they didn't do pre-season with us; that's what happens when you sign players late and they haven't had the same preparation." More reshuffling of the pack for the next game it seems.

But then the real season obviously begins next Saturday. Out of the way are 2 of the 6 games against the "unbeatable" trio of Cheski, Manure and Arsenal and all we have on Saturday is little old Pompey who, after Harry summer tinkering, are now surprisingly at up to 2nd place with no goals conceded. Shades of the Addicks last year perhaps.

Charlton: Carson; Young, Traore (Kishishev 50), El Karkouri, Diawara (M Bent 64); Ambrose, Faye, Hughes, Reid(Rommedahl 30); Hasselbaink, D Bent.

Subs (not used): Myhre, Holland.

Goal: Hasselbaink 54

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Is Diawara the Key man?

Hunting around for clues to the outcome of todays clash, I settled on our potential debut boy Souleymane Diawara. Brought in to strengthen our defence late in August, we haven't seen him play yet but everyone seems to think highly of him. He'll need to be at his best today and whoever he partners, El Karkouri or Faye, lets hope they gel immediately.

But of course, it'll take more that one new head to get a result against Chelski and a lot will depend on the team that ID sends out. Although Monica seems up for tomorrows game, there does seem to be a little anxiety in the camp, something that was never obvious in Curbs day, except among the fans of course.

Perhaps that's down to our new management being more open and available and more willing to be quoted. Yesterdays piece of coaching advice was "When you're out of possession you have to be set up in a way that makes it difficult for them to hurt you, but when you're in possession you have to play."

This does sound much like an invitation to adapt the "Curbs Plan A" to swamp midfield and prevent Chelski the space to work. But its unfortunate for Monica that the game comes at a time when he can't put out his best team.

With Omar Pouso away all week getting his "visa", it seems that his debut will have to wait a while unless he manages to make the bench. And with one "hard man" sidelined Monica has the question of where to play Amady Faye. Faye was bought in to add some much-needed bit to the midfield but it has been in central defence that he looks more at home. Instantly moving back into the position vacated due to the Herminators early bath against Bolton he never put a foot wrong for the following hour and the whole team played better. Was it Kish's presence instead of Faye in midfield that did it?

Monica may therefore be tempted to include Faye at central defence once again in the place of HH. However this will leave the midfield a little light-weight against the strengths of Essien and Ballack. And there's even the possiblity that Young may not be fit, requiring Kish to move into his old full-back position.

This need to beef-up midfield will possibly see the return of Kish and a midfield of the Bulgarian, Reid, Faye and, dare I say it, Hughes is more than a possiblilty.

Some people even want to see us go back to the tactics used last year, when with a 4-5-1 formation, we had a midfield of Rommedahl, Holland, Kish, Hughes and Ambrose. The thought has obviously occurred to Monica but these numbers don't come easily to our Coachs' mentality. It'll be a 4-4-2 with Jimmy-Floyd against his old club alongside Darren.

So the key to getting any sort of result today will depend on Monica's use of his available resources and on all the team playing to their potential. And, of course, Chelski falling asleep again.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Chelsea Preview

After the enforced break for our growing squad of internationals to wave the flag, or in Darrens case, to sit idly on the bench, its now back to the Premier grind with another difficult game for the Addicks on Saturday as we trundle down the Kings Road to face Russian side Chelski.

Unbeaten during our 2 games last season at Stamford Bridge, it would appear that we have some sort of an Indian sign over Chelski at the moment, but with Shevchenko and Ballack strengthing the Blues, its pretty obvious that Monica will be placing no reliance on these last 2 performances.

However, looking back for a moment, we can be very proud of what we achieved in those two games at the Bridge which of course included our Carling Cup victory in October where Chelski were put out of the cup on penalties but somehow not actually beaten according to some at the ground. Seems defeat to "small" clubs can be hard to swallow sometimes. This "defeat", of course, has been the only one suffered by Chelski at home since the God took over in June 2004.

To add to the annoyance that the Blessed One must feel towards us is the fact that we returned in January for the league game and earned a point in a 1-1 draw. This of course spoiled their 100% home record and turned out to be the only time that Chelski failed to pick up all 3 points at Stamford Bridge all season. So he has a few scores to settle then.

The league encounter saw Chelski fall asleep during the second half, thinking that their one first half goal was enough to beat us. But with our 5 man midfield we held our own. Marcus Bent, on his Charlton debut, it was that headed the equaliser half-an-hour from the end and Darren Ambrose could even have won it for us at the death sending his shot just over.

Total Played:64 Won:22 Draw:16 Loss:26
The Bridge: Won:10 Draw:7 Loss:15

In the long history of our games against the illustrious Chelsea we have nearly held our own, with probably the most famous game being in May 1988, when a famous 1-1 draw at the Bridge kept us out of the Division One Play-offs and condemned Chelsea to play them. As a consequence, of course, Chelsea were relegated!

In the last 13 games against them, including the cup game, we have won 6, drawn 1 and lost 6, so all square then! But as the money's been flowing out of the Bridge so the results have been getting worst as far as we are concerned. The four games played since Jose took over has seen us only manage one draw and 3 defeats.

While there may be some of us holding faint thoughts of continuing our recent luck we have to remember that so far this season with our new Head Coach, things have not panned out as expected. Surprises against Bolton and upsets against the Hammers are not the usual things we expect. If Monica has a habit of turning History upside down, what of the Form Book.

Well, this doesn't do us any favours, as it points out that we haven't enjoyed back-to-back Premiership victories for a year (37 matches). The Addicks have not won in 15 League games on the road, losing the last four and a defeat to Chelsea would make this our worst ever start to a Premier League campaign. The good news is that Chelski have won their last 8 home games, its got to stop sometime!

Talk The Talk

The Sporting Life quotes our man as saying "I am expecting to go there and be very competitive. I think the 11 players I will have out there are going to be able to cope with Chelsea."

The Opposition
Chelski's last game saw a 2-0 victory away to Blackburn. Their midfield was Essien, Ballack and Lampard and up-front they had new-boys Shevchenko and Kalou. A frightening prospect, perhaps, but the reports spoke of a lack-lustre performance, a crowded midfield and little width. In their only home game, a 3-0 win against Man. City, they used both wingers Wright-Phillips and Robben but had no Ballack in midfield, so we can probably expect Essien, Ballack, Lampard, Robben, Shevchenko and Kalou.

The Addicks
So much for the pre-amble, what will the team be?

With HH out it'll presumably be a in-the-deep-end debut for our new boy Diawara from Sochaux. Who will feature alongside him is open to debate. After some anonymous performances Amady Faye played an hour against Bolton in the back four and looked as he belonged there. So Faye or El Karkouri?

Presumably Young will have recovered from his travel sickness on Wednesday and he and Traore should be the fullbacks. The forward line speaks for itself which as always leaves the midfield open to interpretion. Everyone will have their own idea as to its make-up but Pouso and Reid are obvious ones to make the starting line-up, assuming Pouso has arrived match-fit which is unknown.

The other 2 midfield places will illustrate the managements thinking and on which will surely depend any possible success. It could be Kish, Faye, Rommedahl, Holland or Hughes and maybe Ambrose if he's recovered from his "groin niggle" that kept him out of the England U-21 team.

The world famous lawro of course gives us no hope and has it down as a 2-0 home win.
While valley floyd james gets rather more ambitious and goes for a draw or a 1-0 Addicks win.
My team
Carson, Young, Diawara, Faye, Traore, Kish, Reid, Pouso, Ambrose, Jimmy-Floyd and Darren Bent.
And a Prediction of a 2-0. Defeat, that is.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

They Call me Monica....

Sitting down to tea last night, Mrs Monica has the Team Sheet for Saturday's game all ready, but our Head Coach is somewhat pensive and upset at something.

"What on earths the matter, Iain dear? You look as if you've had a hard day"
"I've just been told what they call me."
"What who call you?"
"What they call me."
"Who are they?"
"Our bloody so-called supporters"
"Well, and what do they call you?"
"Monica - they call me Monica."
"Oh, that. I thought you knew"
"No, I didn´t. And who told you?"
"Oh, I was just surfing, Iain dear and I saw it on Wikipedia."
"Wikipedia, Iain dear. Its sort of an encyclopedia."
"What! You mean I´m in some sort of encyclopedia as "MONICA"
"Oh, don´t fret so Iain. Its bad for your positives ions."

ID grabs his Charlton mug and downs another gulp of tea.
"Whose idea was it anyway? I 'd like to sort 'em out"
"Well they had a poll, Iain dear, a sort of virtual poll, to decide what to call you."
"And they choose MONICA!!. And me going into management thinking I had a head start with the perfect name. There´s Sparkie, Lawrie, Harry, Jolly, and I thought I was already there with Dowie."
"It is perfect, Iain dear. But no-one in football is called by their real name. Wouldn't be right, would it?"
"So tell me. How can I give 'em me upper-cut at the end of a game when I know they call me Monica?"

Mrs Monica reflected for a second.
"Be positive, Iain dear, and try to look on the bright side. I'll tell you the reason for it. Remember that song by Johnny Cash, 'A Boy Named Sue.' About a father wanting his son to be tough and grow up strong. Well, thats want they want, Iain dear. They're tired of being nice and pretty, they want a tough guy. So that's why they called you Monica, so you would come out fighting."

ID looks surprised but impressed by Mrs Monica's reasoning, and then jumps to his feet.
"Give me that Team Sheet. We'll show 'em who's boss around here!"

Mrs Monica smiled to herself, reached for the teapot and poured them both another cup of tea.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Should We Be Worried?

Perhaps the artificial lull in the season caused by international games is to blame but only three games into the season and the fans are already anxious at the amount of money spent during the summer.

And with the uncertainties of new management not helped by 2 early season defeats against West Ham and manure with 6 goals conceded some of us are clearly expecting the worst. Not only that but the new manager, sorry coach, has seemingly dispensed with our legendary spending restraints and outlaid a cool £12m on new players. Even Richard Murray, himself, during a recent interview, expressed just a little tension when asked about the outlay and confirmed that some of the budgeted sum earmarked for next summers transfers has already been spent.

This has clearly upset a lot of people. For those of the fans that have put greater emphasis on Charlton´s financial management skills over the years rather that the footballing prowess this is a surprising occurence, but he´s clearly told Monica to keep us in the Division, whatever you have to do and Monica has obliged. And in any business, a manager has to have people, in this case players, that he can work with. The players may all be professionals but a managers methods and success will depend on him having players that he can motivate and get to perform adequately.

And whilst the quality of the agruments written have been noticeably high perhaps we should instead be applauding the management for at least showing action rather than doing nothing while Rome burns around us and patiently wait to see where we are at Christmas before we start to question Monica´s dealings.

For Monica's part, he has always been anxious to emphasize that he appreciated the squad he inherited and has given them all a generous try-out during pre-season before his subsequent spending spree tells us that he wasn´t entirely happy with his inherited squad. Like most of us, he clearly thought that, whatever he may have said, the performances against West Ham and manure were clearly not good enough. Since then he has blown the budget by the acquisition of Diawara and Pouso.

We have already seen new-boys Carson, Traore, Faye, Reid and Jimmy-Floyd in Premier action and although there may still be doubts over the attributes of Traore and Faye the others look better than the ones they have displaced. We even have Pouso and Diawara in the wings yet to show us what they can do so it seems a little premature to be worrying what the management are up to. Whatever we may think, they know their jobs better than we do and the question about whether we are good enough or have the money to belong to this Division will be answered on the pitch and nowhere else.

With 9 (nine) new signings and with only Jason Euell leaving for a fee we´ve spend a cool 12 million although the wage bill has been eased but the departure of Spector, Jeffers, Johansson, Perry and Bartlett. Loan deals have also been made to give some players more experience and to cut the bill even further. But with more internationals arriving its a good bet that the wage bill will also be significantly higher than its ever been and perhaps people would worry even more if they knew what it was.

And with 34 players now in our numbered squad we´re in danger of running out of numbers although any injury problems will be easier to handle. Its odds on that quite a few of the old names will be finding new homes in the January transfer window. Lets hope that by then Monica will have proved to us that his transfer dealings were based on depth of knowledge rather than Richard Murrays obliging pocket.

So perhaps its time to see where we are at the moment with 3 games played.

The worst performance has to be the one against manure. Or is that me. Still hoping for something against that lot maybe I failed to appreciate someones contribution, or maybe not. It was the usual predictable defeat – seems we need a Jorge Costa or dare I say it a Shawn Bartlett to get even a point out of them. It appears that even the players have given up believing they can win as well as the fans. But, nevertheless it was disappointing with 2 defensive howlers gifting them 2 goals just when 3 shots hitting the woodwork appeared to suggest that lady luck was on our side.

In our other 2 games the final results were perhaps the reverse of what had been expected. We usually get something from games against the Hammers with only 1 defeat in the last 6 played. And while we have the excuse of the sending off to explain the defeat perhaps we should be thankful that we have played them before the argies arrived.

The games against Bolton has been getting harder of late and its been 8 games since we beat them. Ironical then that the game should turn our way after the Herminator was sent off and we were down to 10 me.

In similar fashion to the manure game we once again rode our luck early on with 3 good opportunities being spawned by Bolton in the first half before the sending off strangely turned things around. We definitely played better with 10 men. Maybe it was Kish that made the difference. Faye had been largely anonymous during the first half-hour but then stepped back into central defence as if he belonged there. The relationship he had with Traore in the second-half was clearly one of the highlights of the second period.

But rather than worrying about the results from the first 3 games with only 3 points to show, perhaps we should be thankful that the fixtures have allowed the management to immediately see our shortcomings and act before the transfer window closed. It was obvious that the Bolton result, although earned by our resilience, illustrated the fact that the defence needed strengthing urgently. The arrival of Diawara and Pouso is Monica´s answer.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Herminator scores but Kish Doesn´t!

Whilst the rumours remain unconfirmed, ie the article is awaiting translation, it would appear that Iceland put the English well in the shade by showing how it should be done by overwhelming Northern Ireland 3-0 in Belfast in a Group F European Championship game.

And it was our very own Herminator, after a corner by Gudjohnsen, who found himself unmarked at the far post and put the visitors 2-0 up with a left-footed shot, the only known time that HH has scored with his left foot.

Kish was also in action on Saturday, playing the first half in a 2-2 draw in Group G away to Rumania. And no, he didn´t score!

Far From Us Farinos

If there´s anyone out there who remotely cares what happened to our 28 year-old spanish Trialist Francisco Xavier Farinos who played for us against Welling, Germinal Beerschot and FC Utrecht, he´s been spotted on spanish TV patrolling the midfield for second division Hercules Alicante.

If you remember this is the man that after over a 100 games in his 4 years at Valencia, moved to Italy and has been with Inter for the last 6 years and made 76 appearances in the League, Cup and Europe. During this time he spend a year on loan at Villareal and for the last two years he's been on loan at Spanish club Mallorca. He's played twice for Spain but however couldn´t convince Monica to give him a contract.

He finally seems to have found his level and has turned up at minnows Hercules where he starred in a 3-0 defeat over the reserves of Real Madrid in a second division game yesterday. Before a "crowd" of 3200 people ( the spanish second division teams can only dream of english second tier crowds) he made the last hercules goal winning the ball in midfield and chipping the last defender for Sendoa to score.

He earned himself the maximum 3 stars and along with ex-Valladolid star Tote was voted man-of-the-match by AS the Real Madrid fanzine, sorry "sportspaper". While displaying all the usual spanish ball skills that obviously attracted Monica, I can´t say that he send the game alight although after his english training sessions he was one of the few players who seemed determined to stay on his feet.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Mrs Monica's First Eleven....

No sooner has the transfer window slammed shut than we are getting out pen and paper, not only to remind us of all the riches we now have at our disposal but to analyse the squad and design our "Perfect Eleven".

No doubt Monica is sitting down at home right now with a nice cup of tea discussing the pros and cons with Mrs Monica. He sat down yesterday discussing the players with Les and Mark and digested all the options on the way home last night but now he wants Mrs Monica's help to get the whole thing organised.

"You have a nice easy day, Iain dear, you've been working too hard these last weeks. Put your feet up here and have some more toast. The Team? Yes, of course, Iain dear, you must stick with the 4-4-2. Alan had a thing about a 4-5-1 didn't he, but you know how cautious he always was. You're not that way inclined at all, Iain dear. Besides he was too pretty to be a football manager, you're different Iain. And I'm so glad you took my advice and got that nice Mr Pouso, Iain, he's just the rugged player the ladies will like"

How are you going to pick the best 11? That's easy, Iain dear, just like baking one of your favorite cherry cakes. The goalie of course is that young Scottie Carson, a good shot stopper though not as experienced as Deano used to be but with Myhre's form slipping last season, he's a young keeper that can only get better. And it might sound strange but I like the way there's no "number 1" in the squad makes them both work harder.

The full-backs will be captain Luke Young and dimmy Djimi - Young still gets caught in possession at times and Djimi sometimes seems to have left his defensive awareness at home, but then nobodys perfect.

Central defence will be your new-boy Souley Diawara and the Herminator. What language they will use to communicate is still a bit of a mystery. Perhaps you need a Language Coach, Iain dear, just teach Souley the english for "out" and "mine" pretty smartish and in his turn perhaps he can teach Hermann to keep his elbows down.

The midfield is the heart of any team. Its got to be strong but creative. Able to stop the opposition and win back the ball. Able to see the perfect through ball or a chip into space but also to provide the first line of defence. So what better duo could we possibly have than the new double-act "Andy and Omar". An fat Irishman and a rugged Uruguayan , what better combination could you wish for?

Backing up the heart of midfield will be a role for the tricksters. Jerome Thomas on the left and Dennis Rommedahl on the right are our two wingers but you can't play them both at the same time. One on the pitch and the other on the bench. Which leaves one midfield place left and here there's no clear leader. And that's exactly how it should be - fool the opposition by using Kish, Faye, Ambrose, Holland or even that nice Brian Hughes as and when it suits.

With two up front the strike force picks itself - Darren Bent and Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink. Jimmy's 34 now and no spring chicken so a reinforcement will be needed in this area before long but for the time being its Darren and Jimmy.

And the bench will need reinforcing with the weight of some many internationals. Myhre, El Karkouri, Marcus Bent with two midfielders from Ambrose, Rommedahl, Kish, Faye.

So, is that all clear Iain dear, just remember that you have to make the cake bearing in mind who's coming to tea. Except that in my case I have to give my guests what they like, lots of cherries. In your case you have to give your guests what they didn't like. Do you follow, Iain dear. Would you like another cup of tea?

So you can see that even Mrs Monica has no "Perfect Eleven". Its not even a matter of opinion. Its all a case of having a steady, firm base and then mixing in the spices according to who's coming to tea.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Feeding Frenzy Over

At long last, with the dawn of September, the frantic market of buying, selling and loaning has come to an abrupt end. Like a mad feeding frenzy of people desperate to fill their stomachs before an enforced fast, so the managers, and coaches, are anxious to get "bodies aboard" to ensure that they have enough to survive the hardships of the Premier ship season.

In our case, and no complaints directed towards Curbs, Monica had to instigate an urgent re-building program, not only to produce a team good enough for the new season but also to create a side that was his own. We told him to get himself a team because we were all having nightmares with the one we had and in 3 short months he would have appeared to have achieved both objectives.

The last day of transfer dealings always sees a large number of last minute transfers as fear and anxiety forces its way through and value for money is promptly thrown out of the window. But in the case of Pouso, Monica appears to have done his homework. He's seen him several times and our midfield is definitely an area of the team where we needed more "drive".

He's spent, by my reckoning, £11.5M which, even ignoring inflation, is a lot higher than Curbs ever spent. Some we're heard of and others are complete strangers to everyone. We can only begin to imagine how a football club sees and keeps tabs on all the players out there. There's obviously a lot of behind-the -scences activity that we never get to see. Perhaps its all in Curbs' book but maybe there's a real-life "Championship Manager" that we don't know about. But, although we're yet to see Gibbs, Diawara and Pouso in action, the other 6 newcomers have definitely, despite our shaky start to the season, brought an improvement to the team.

To remind everyone, the nine new boys are: Cory Gibbs, Simon Walton, Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink, Amady Faye, Djimi Traore, Scott Carson, Andy Reid, Souleymane Diawara and Omar Pouso. Assuming Walton is best suited to midfield that's: one goalkeeper, 2 full-backs, a central defender, 4 midfielders and surprisingly for an ex-striker, only one forward. I guess you could argue its only 8 new bodies as Simon Walton has been packed off to Ipswich till Christmas.

Scanning the squad now we can only speculate at what Monica sees as his best team. But the influx of arrivals over the last week now makes the prospect of predicting our favoured 11 very mouth-watering. Roll on Chelski!

Sadly, we have to reflect that to compensate for the money spent and the lack of forthcoming opportunities, we have had to say goodbye to our biggest ever transfer purchase and leading goal-scorer for 3 of the last 5 seasons. Old favorite Jason Euell hasn't done it for a couple of seasons now and we can only wish him well at Middlesbrough. I bet he scores the winning goal in December at the Riverside. Also moving away is Stephan Andersen, who has joined Leeds on loan for the season.