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Friday, June 20, 2008

Pardew's Dilemma

More confirmation of our realigned status in the football world came a few days ago as we, apparently, fought off a host of other clubs to secure the signing of Stuart Fleetwood from non-league Forest Green. Although reading what was said by Richard Murray to my fellow Bloggers last week it should come as no surprise to see us fishing in the bargain basement.
But strikers are surely not the priority on Pardews' Things -to-do list. If you count the transfer-listed Marcus Bent, we now have eight and if its a 4-4-2 that Pardew wants, its going to take us all season to figure out which of the possible 28 permutations are the best combination. A cull, and hopefully a useful injection of cash, must come before the season starts.
And Pards needs no reminding that scoring goals last season was not really a problem, we did get 63 of them and finished 5th in the goalscoring listings. The only thing missing perhaps was a "top" goalscorer. A look at the Division's top 20 list of top scorers does include one Addick, Andy Gray, but only 2 of his 15 goals came for us.
No, the more pressing need is the defence. Fifty-eight goals conceded and 15th worse in the Division and the worse of any team in the top half of the fizzy table. And full marks therefore to Pardew for persuading the captain of the meanest defence in the fizzies to join us. Yes, Palarse only let in 42 goals all season, helping itself to a very healthy goal difference of 16. Ours was just 5. A good defence means less defeats, of course, and they only suffered 11 last year, against our 16.
Clearly Hudson needs to go straight into the team, next to Bougherra, as long as he's still around. Hopefully Magic will do the decent thing and make up his mind up quickly, we don't want him to do a Diawara and fly the nest in August leaving Pards with no time to find a replacement.
So, on to Pards' Main Dilemma. How to explain the twin, and probably connected failings, of the usual end of season collapse and the failure to beat the crap teams in the Division. As for the end of season crash, up till Game 39 we had only spent 5 games outside the top 6 but the failure to beat Bristol City on Tuesday March 4th and the subsequent defeats at home to Preston on the Saturday and then a 0-1 defeat away at Burnley on the Tuesday meant a 3 game week of only 1 point from the 3 games. The following defeat at Ipswich took us down to 9th and effectively ended the season.
As for our performance against the worse teams in the Division you only have to look at our results to see that it wasn't very good. There's a listing somewhere that shows us 2nd in results against top half teams but a lowly 19th against the bottom half. Ten wins and 35 points against the cream, only Stoke did better, but a paltry 7 victories, 9 defeats and 29 points against the crap. The only top half teams to come close were, and a clue perhaps, Watford with 37 and Sheffield with 36.
But how can you explain the teams brilliant performances against the top teams while they failed against the bad. You can argue that the bottom teams all raised their game against us, one of the Premiership old boys. You could say that ex-players contributed to our demise against Colchester and Barnsley.
But basically Pardew must admit that the team is, or wasn't, build to cope with Second Division football. It was constructed to win the Play-offs and if we had stayed in 5th place the odds, given our form against the best teams there, would have been with us.
The only other clue to our failure is our performance over the first half of the season compared to second. After game 23 at Hull, we had 11 wins, 5 draws and 7 defeats with 38 points. On course for automatic promotion and West Brom eventually won the league with 81. In the second half we won only 6 games with 8 draws and 9 defeats. And a strange coincidence happened in Game 24 at Norwich on Boxing Day.
Because of Mills dismissal against Hull, Bougherra moved to right back and Paddy McCarthy was re-introduced at centre-back for his first game since September. And there he stayed for the remainder of the season alongside either Bougherra, Sodje or Fortune.
We can't totally blame McCarthy for the failings of the team since December and I don't know the answer any more than you do but Pardew clearly has to improve our record, and a straight swap of a kingpin in the best defence in the fizzies for the mainstay of our defence during the second half of our season seems to me to be step in the right direction.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bit of a Mess to Clear Up, Pards...

Euro08 contines and at last UEFA have solved the problem of how to bring some excitement to what had promised to be a boring old Group game between two first game losers. Answer, play the game under 2 inches ( that'll be 5cm then ) of water and tell the players that if you lose you go home. Step forward Switzerland and Turkey and take a bow, best game so far by miles or should it be gallons ( or litres maybe).
Meanwhile down in SE7, it seems official that both Marcus Bent and Amdy Faye, two survivors from Charlton's Premiership days, have returned to the Valley from loan spells at Wigan and Rangers.
According to News Shopper, I think it was, "Pardew had indicated throughout last season he had no desire to see either return to The Valley and now he faces the dilemma of having two high-earning players on his books".
And is reported as saying "I will sit down with both of them during pre-season and discuss what needs to be done," he added.
But what exactly is Pards going to say to them? He inherited both players, Bent being purchased by Curbs and Faye by Dowie, and right now, whatever opinion he may have had eighteen months ago, he's got to produce a team that will get us out of the fizzies and its very questionable if either player wants or can help us achieve that.
And then at the back of Pardews mind must be the fact that neither player will be keenly accepted by the fans. Common to both players is that in their case we clearly have the same opinion as Pardew and can't wait to see the back of them.
Their current wages is another stumbling black. Money is obviously a key issue here with both still apparently receiving Premiership wages.
And with Pards' ideas on grooming the youngsters, getting in players that have proved themselves at this level, and his current plan to plunder the non-league teams is there any room for two aging unwanted "premiership" players that no top class club wants?
With Todorov returning from injury and feelers out for Stuart Fleetwood, the last thing Pardew wants is another striker. There is some comparison between Todorov and Bent, both having spent a year on loan at Wigan recently, Todorov in 2006/07 - without scoring - and Bent is now 30, which Todorov will be in August, but with only 2 England U21 caps, Bent has nowhere near the pedigree or the hunger apparently as the Bulgarian with 42 caps for his country.
After 10 clubs in 14 years and a goal total of around 100 Bent obviously finds it hard to settle or is it that he's just not good enough. He's only scored 5 times for the Addicks in 38 starts with another 14 sub appearances which make even Carl Leaburns' figures of 66 from 323 starts look quite impressive. And after a return of just a single goal in Pardews' first season in charge it was a bit of a surprise to see him play in the first game of season against Scunthorpe. He scored, of course.
Three games later he was off to Wigan on loan, and after 7 goals for Wigan before Christmas, and although whenever I happened to see him on TV he seemed up for the challenge, he now hasn't scored for 18 games which has obviously prompted a negative response from Wigan and even at a snip of 1M is far too much for Brucie. He's reported as being placed on our transfer list but what happens if nobody comes calling?
As for Faye, he's now 31, has lost a "a" on his travels and after a season of distinct under-achievement at Rangers, Smith doesn't want him either. He only started 2 games and in both of them was withdrawn at half-time. Another 2 further sub appearances and that was the end of his Scottish adventure. And his team get to a European final and he's nowhere to be seen.
Is this the player that finished third with Auxerre in the French league 6 years ago and that won the French Cup in 2003? Did he really play in the Chumps League with the french and the UEFA with Newcastle? He's even played in the World Cup finals for Senegal in 2004 and got to the last 16 and got to the final of the African Cup in the same year although he missed a penalty in the shootout and lost.
With all that experience behind him and at 31 he should be at his peak right now and be playing alongside Holland in the midfield and protecting our star of the future Shelvey but no, clearly there's something very wrong.
Methinks its time for a bit of psychology on both players. They, in the twilight of their careers have come to a dead end. Its either time to prove that they can still play or have anything to teach the youngsters or they should give up and get out. Its no good putting them on the transfer list, nobodys going to bother especially with Mr Faye in his current form and with Bents' Premiership fantasies putting a block on any fizzy club matching up.
Bit of a mess to sort out, Pards. Unwanted stragglers, not the most pleasing part of management just another aspect, I'm afraid.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cheating with Michel....

Well, just when people were starting to say that strikers were a dying bred along comes David Villa, who insists on having his full name on his shirt, aided and abetted by Liverpool's El Nino, to hammer 4 goals past the poor Russkies. And at the same time ramming down the throats of the press all the stick that manager Luis Aragones receives for not playing somebody called Raul. Even at the weekend they were complaining about the "shambles" that the team were in during the 1-0 win over the United States. So much for getting behind the national team.
And if you like all this tippy-tappy possession football there's nobody better than Spain for keeping the ball and with midfield players of the quality of Xavi, Iniesta (the reason Barca allowed Cesc Fabregas to go to the Arse), Silva, Senna, Alonso and Fabregas its only surprising that they've got room for two strikers on the field.
And there was no sign, thankfully, of that scourge of Spanish football, the falling over trick, as experienced by the one and only Michael Robinson. The ex-Liverpool player signed for Osasuna back in 1987 and his first instruction from the trainer in Pamplona was that he had to learn to fall over in the box. He's now got his own progam on Canal Plus, speaks like a native and has become a bit of an institution here in Spain and yesterday gave an interview to El Pais. Sorry, the interview's in spanish, but the picture's a good likeness..
And on the same note, strange then that UEFA President Michel Platini sees fit to object to the use of retrospective video evidence to punish divers. And goes on to openly admit that "When I was a player I simulated to help my team win". So much for Gallic pride.
And its a bit rich (!) then that the same Michel Platini, although on a different note, sets about calling our Big Clubs nothing less that "cheats" the other day. Along with the rest of us, seems he doesn't like them either, but in his case its for amassing such huge debts.
Seems that Chelsea and United owe creditors a combined £1.5bn according to their latest published accounts. "Chelsea Limited, the company which owns the football club, owes £736m to its creditors even if it does not owe any external debt to any bank. Instead, the owner Roman Abramovich has poured some £578m into the club as an interest-free loan. United's figures indicated that about £764m was owed".
Platini then lays in on in some style, in suitable comparison with his diving performances, "Look at the debts that Chelsea and United have. Fifa and Uefa are going to have to do something to combat that because, today, it is the clubs who cheat that are winning. It's a race for money and we've ended up with this proposal for a 39th game to be played. It isn't about winning titles any more but about generating enough money to pay off debt. I don't think one should cheat to win and when clubs are in debt - English, Italian and Spanish clubs - it's probably easier for them to beat other clubs who aren't in debt."
Platini, of course, does had a point and his idea to "create a level playing field" in club football would be commendable, if it wasn't so laughable.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

New Formation Needed, Pards

Yesterday I lamented on the fact that we have no current internationals in the squad, sorry Magic, and Pards shouldn't waste his time looking at any potential Euro08 players because they won't be coming to SE7. The Second Division these days is very different territory and we have to cut our cloth etc, etc.
No, these days its the non-league for us. And another player from that vast forest of untapped talent seems to be heading this way in Stuart Fleetwood and I for one can't see any harm in that. He's cheap, with a reported 150k making its way across to Forest Green, gets goals and bearing in mind the £2m we spent on Luke Varney for a scant reward of 7 goals from 24 starts must be worth a try and he'll presumably be hungry, which I suppose is something that Pards doesn't see in Marcus Bent, for instance. And neither does Steve Bruce apparently.
The news on Wiki, if you believe that sort of thing, is that he's already joined us, Fleetwood that is, so perhaps we shouldn't mention the fact that of his 32 League goals last season only 6 have came this year, ie since January 1st. Shades of Marcus then.
And with the news that Amady Faye is returning to the Valley, once Pards has had a word or two, its perhaps good news that there's a need for more midfielders in todays world.
This was given a full explanation in a very interesting article in the guardian the other day, advocating a new formation, a 4-6-0 mainly because there's not many good centre-forwards ( sorry strikers) these days so that most teams have to do without them. The advice comes from Carlos Alberto Parreira, the coach who had led Brazil to victory in the 1994 World Cup. Good job we've got Holland, Semedo, ZiZi, Racon, Sam, Shelvey, Jerry Thomas, Ambrose, Sinclair, Basey, the other Thomas and Wagstaff to cover for us. And not forgetting the returning Josh Wright and now A. Faye.
And there's also some added advice in the same article from Arrigo Sacchi, ex manager of Milan, the last team to win back to back Euro Cups. 'I told him (Gullit) that five organised players would always beat 10 disorganised ones,' Sacchi explained. 'And I proved it to them. I took five players: Giovanni Galli in goal, Tassotti, Maldini, Costacurta and Baresi. They had 10 players: Gullit, Van Basten, Rijkaard, Virdis, Evani, Ancelotti, Colombo, Donadoni, Lantignotti and Mannari. They had 15 minutes to score against my five players and the only rule was that if we won possession or they lost the ball, they had to start over from 10 metres inside their own half. I did this all the time and they never scored. Not once.'
Which I suppose does go to explain what happened to the Addicks in the second half of the season when we used something like 28 players. Can so many changes give us organisation? Probably not. Promoted Hull City in contrast played just 30 all season. And the thought of Sacchi's 5 organised players does remind me of the 5 occasions last season when we coped very well indeed with only 10 players on the park.
So apparently that's todays keyword, Pards, organisation and less is good as far as strikers is concerned, but not in the case of midfielders. Get to it!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Beam Me Up Scotty.....

The Britishless-Euro08 hit our screens over the weekend and with it another nail in our coffin of depleted memories. I have to say I'm not a great England fan and our non-appearance makes it much harder to justify watching the daily games. Mrs Nelson, for one, fails to see the pleasure to be gained from watching Switzerland v the Czech Republic on a Saturday evening, - "when actually are you going to mow the bloody lawn" - although the dire football that we served up in the last World Cup perhaps makes us fortunate that we won't be embarrassed this time around.
But what does hurt is the complete lack of any Addicks players among the entire competition. Gone are the days when the bulletin would report the exploits of the Hermannator and Rommers as they struggle to qualify, the efforts to get Lukewarm and little Darren into the english team, and even lamenting that Di Canio was too old to make the Italian squad. And then there was El Karkouri, Faye and Diawara in the African Cup to worry about. And gone to are the days of watching Kinsella battle it out with the giants of Germany.
These days, with our glorious past apparently behind us, all we have is the embarrassing pastime of spotting if there are any players that bear a passing resemblance to anyone that used to play for us. And calling your mates attention to the fact that Jarolim of the Czech Republic looks remarkably like a younger Spud Murphy. And then its not as if we can fool ourselves into any useless speculation that Pards is over there on the lookout for new signings, for there's precious little chance that anyone in Euro08 will lower themselves to consider football in the fizzies next season.
And I have to say that the horizon doesn't look very promising, despite the fact that we have managed to secure a new sponsor in JD Sports, and specifically their Carbrini range for the teens, for one year after the demise of housing giant Llanera.
Once again its back to fashion, following on from our link with all:sports in 2003, who JD Sports "acquired" in 2006 after they went into adminisation like most of our previous sponsors; take note JD. And if we had a crystal ball and could have looked at the JD Sports website before we saw the kit perhaps we might have expected something more trendy, aka the current German kit with a stylish number on the front or the striking Joma Seville kit as mentioned on CharltonLife, just to give us all a much needed lift.
But, no, we're Charlton and we can't afford to take the opportunity to set a fashion and lead the field. And just to confirm the matter, the poll in charltonlife, admittedly with only 111 votes, has the most votes, 34%, for "don't like either home or away shirt" which must be surely a big negative for the club. The word naff has been used and the style seems more in line with a trip back in time to the Eighties with FADS on the starship Enterprise than a voyage into the 21st century.
In fact, and not wanting to cast stones, its pretty obvious that somebody in the club has stuck his oar in where it doesn't belong for the design, when compared with all the other trendy stuff on the website, looks distinctly out of place.
Having said all that there is a better full frontal on the JD Sports website.... ( is it my imagination or does that Mark Hudson look a dead ringer for Scotty?) and all you have to do is place your finger across the glaring white stripe and it looks half-decent ( and round the back too apparently...)
But as to who exactly can we point the finger at as responsible for the one stripe too many, perhaps we'll never know. And we'll just have to wait and see if after FADS, The Woolwich, Viglen, MESH, Redbus, all:sports and Llanera will Carbrini beam us back to the Promised Land?