The events of Saturday afternoon may have been completely farcical, but the poorly handled abandonment of Charlton’s clash with Doncaster couldn’t mask the Addicks’ dreadful start to the game. Sloppy defending, poor communication and disorganisation from a back line that have not only spent the best part of two seasons together, but one which has been fantastically resolute in seasons which have seen the club restore some pride to The Valley.
Although only three games into the season, questions have to be asked, and Powell will surely be looking for a response from his defenders in the forthcoming games against Huddersfield and Leicester. Cort and Dervite aside, none of the defenders have covered themselves in glory in any of Charlton’s matches, and perhaps Powell will look to strengthen as the transfer window draws to a close. Against Doncaster, Wiggins was dreadful, failing to pick up his man on several occasions and looking complete off the pace, whilst Morrison (captain for the day) also made a large number of basic errors. What is perhaps most concerning, is that Chris Solly, ‘Mr Reliable’ and player of the year for the last two seasons, is also failing to live up to the high expectations of the Charlton fans. Solly’s position as the starting right back hasn’t been challenged for several seasons now, and perhaps an air of nonchalance is creeping into his game.
Despite all of this, the Addicks are starting to look particularly dangerous going forward. Gower has been constantly looking to turn and drive at opposition defenders, and in the last two games Cousins has sprayed the ball around with a confidence far beyond his years. His ability to get a foot on the ball and look forward will please Powell, particularly with rumours that a homesick Stephens may soon be headed up north.
On the flanks, Pritchard must learn that he needs to be a wide outlet for Solly, as he is continuing to drift inside leaving no cover on the right flank. There are very few worries on the other side, where Harriott continues to tie defenders in knots. His decision making in the final third still requires improvement, but as his experience grows, he could become Charlton’s most important player.
Up top, Kermorgant and Church are looking more and more encouraging with every minute they play together. Whilst Sordell might count himself unlucky to be sitting on the bench, he will keep the others on their toes, and this will ensure that they continue to perform at their best.
The main issue over the opening few games, and particularly at Doncaster, is the lack of leadership and organisation. No one seemed to be prepared to grab the game by the scruff of its neck, and drag the other players through when their individual performances are below par.
Johnnie Jackson has had his critics, particularly following Charlton’s return to the Championship. At the start of last season, it appeared that he lacked the pace to play on the left, and entering his thirties, it was the opinion of many that he wouldn’t be such an important figure. At Ipswich, Powell moved Jackson into the middle of midfield, and the skipper flourished, finishing the season as joint top goal scorer at the club. Important goals against Cardiff and Watford stand out, but his leadership skills throughout every game have been invaluable, and it is now showing as the Addicks still seek their first win of this season.
The team remains largely unchanged from last season, but Jacko’s absence has left a gaping hole in the spirit of the Charlton side. The players look disorganised and uncertain, and fans will be desperate to see the talismanic skipper back in the first eleven as soon as possible. He is an inspirational captain, and remains one of the most important players at the club.
The poor performances are not simply down to Jackson’s absence however. Individual errors can be stamped out in training, and it has to be something that Powell looks at over the forthcoming weeks. Organisation is another factor that the Addicks appear to be struggling with, and this was far too apparent as Morrison and Hamer berated each other several times throughout the Doncaster match. The communication within the team, particularly the back four and the keeper, needs addressing, as without it the basic errors will continue to appear.
Creativity has historically been a problem with Charlton, but Cousins, Harriott and Kermorgant in his deeper role have started to turn this around. If Powell can firm up the defence, with Jackson fit and back in the side, the goals will come and the team will start to climb back up the table.
In Powell We Trust!
By Tom Wallin