Monday, 15 September 2008

Charlton 1 - 3 Wolves

No real shock this. A bit of a disappointment, but not a big surprise.

Games often turn on a single incident, and that seemed the case on Saturday. The early goal cannot really be called 'against the run of play' as it came after only three minutes. It changed the whole game. Maybe we had decided that we would sit back and invite the league leaders to come at us again and again before kick off? I'm inclined to think that human nature being what it is the players tended to drop back to defend the lead we may, or may not, have deserved.

Wolves looked good. They were clearly the better side. There were several suggestions (from my Dad) that we were 'lucky there'. My answer to that has always been to remind us of the comment that Steve Davis gave in the 1980s when he'd just beaten Jimmy White out of sight to win the World Championship (again). David Vine was trying to appease Jimmy White fans by suggesting that the manor of the result was affected by Steve having a bit of luck at times. His response was that "The more I practice the luckier I get".

Let's be fair it is the job of defenders to get in the way of shots, make clearances, perform last minute tackles. Charlton have, for many years, especially under Curbishley, ridden our luck at the back and kept teams out by sheer hard work and organisation. Hudson was part of a Palace team that did that many times last season as well.

Having said that I didn't believe that the result was going to finish 1-0. It was, actually, a really good game, but I believed that there were more goals to come - sadly I was right. We have no shame at losing (all be it a home) to Wolves. They are a very strong outfit, and Mick McCarthy clearly knows how to find and sign players. Vokes was a very good player (£300k) and I mentioned last March about the significant contribution Ebanks-Blake provided following his signing last January. However, I would argue that Wolves have no superstars. Keogh looked very dangerous in the latter stages of the game, but that was after Sam had gone and Bouazza was playing on the right. I also thought that Craine looked like the centre half that he says he is.

The big thing about Wolves is that they seem to be able to pass the ball very well. This is not because (I don't think) because their players are much more skillful than us, it is because they just seem to know where their team mates are all the time. If you instinctively know where the ball needs to go (i.e. where the player you want to pass to is) you don't need to look up and risk taking that extra second or two before passing. I fear that we will never have a side (and formation) that is settled enough for us to have that benefit all the time Pardew is in charge.

I noted from the program that Pardew now believes that he has changed the squad sufficiently that the team can play the way he likes his sides to. I would argue that he has had these players for a while and chose not to play them. I would also suggest that of the players that went out this summer the ones that played a significant number of games since he arrived were signed by Pardew himself - Iwelumo, McCarthy, Bougherra, Thatcher and Powell.

Still, I'm willing to give him the benefit of doubt, especially as we do seem to have played the same system in every game this season. I think some of the personnel changes have been unnecessary or just plain wrong, but I am saying this with the benefit of hindsight, so it is a little unfair.

The sad truth was that Wolves were better than us on Saturday. I can understand the suggestions that they will be the best team in the league this season, but I'm not sure if that is the case or if it is just wishful thinking. I mean, if Wolves are the best side in the Championship, then we could still be a very good side in this division and look woefully inadequate against them.

We have a balanced side now. When he can pick from a fully fit squad, we have the players than can make up a team. Sadly Pardew feels the need to move these players around a little too often for my liking. However, I fear that the reason for this, and the reason that we may well fall short this season, is that even though we have the players required for our style of play, they are on the whole not good enough. I won't pick out specific players, but there is, in my view, not enough quality in certain positions. This will only become more apparent when we start to have injuries and suspensions.

There is a growing feeling that the club mislead the season ticket holders on this issue - irrelevant at this point - but it might just affect our match ticket sales if performances and results fall away. We are still only one point behind sixth place, and we have a long, long way to go, but the team needs to gel (again) and some of the players need to raise their game. On the basis of what I have seen so far this season I think we will be seeing less games like Reading, and more like Wolves, but what do I know? The current players could raise their game, and the new ones could develop very quickly.

Doncaster away tomorrow is suddenly a must win game. We, sadly, might have to finish above them this season!

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