Best Blog or Account to Follow: Kyle Andrews’ Chris Powell’s Flat Cap blog on the Addicks is hands down one of the best on any club in the EFL. He also has detailed previews of his own on his site and I urge you to check them out.
Record Last Season + Quick Summary:
League One - 13th; W 14 / D 18 / L 14 / F 60 / A 53 / Pts 60
Turbulent. Ongoing fan unrest at the way the Roland Duchâtelet régime has firmly driven a wedge between club and supporters (and that’s being diplomatic) was a constant feature in and away from The Valley, with highly organised protests pockmarking 2016/2017 just as they had in recent seasons. Regarding on-field matters, Russell Slade’s charges got off to a woeful start, losing 2-0 away at Bury and garnering only four league wins from the opening 16. Slade became the latest boss to be booted unceremoniously from SE7 in quite short succession and it was evident that things behind the scenes were not exactly rosy. Caretaker Kevin Nugent temporarily papered over the cracks with three very creditable results in his ephemeral tenure before Karl Robinson, fresh from being sacked by divisional rivals MK Dons, was handed the reins.
No immediate improvement in their overall fortunes was forthcoming from the first few months of the Liverpudlian being in charge of the London club, especially after a woeful winless run in February and stretching into March had Charlton hovering not a million miles away from the relegation trapdoor, which would’ve been unthinkable given the talent at his disposal. However, at least in the short-term, he rallied his side and oversaw an excellent victory over Scunthorpe United to halt the slide. Four wins and a draw in the closing five matches lifted them to the top of the bottom half in an utterly forgettable campaign.
Top Goalscorer: Ricky Holmes (13 goals in 31 starts/2,764 minutes)
Top Creator: Ricky Holmes (6 assists in 31 starts/2,764 minutes)
Manager/Head Coach: Karl Robinson; a divisive person in the sense that he is often confident and bullish when public-facing, which can irritate opposition supporters and even some of his own if things aren’t going too well. Particularly keen on developing and coaching players, which was a large part of his remit at MK Dons and one of the chief reasons why he was given so long at stadium:mk to oversee the proliferating graduation of players from the Buckinghamshire outfit’s own academy. Seemed to run out of ideas in 2016/2017 to turn around fortunes on the pitch, which ultimately cost him his job. At Charlton, he has entered the frying pan from the equivalent of a fridge. Constant allusions to both players in the squad not giving their all and other issues behind closed doors from a non-playing point of view ultimately neither helped nor hindered his standing but did suggest that another summer of tumult was likely to occur.
Ins: Mark Marshall (Bradford City), Billy Clarke (Bradford City), Jay Dasilva (Chelsea U23s on loan), Tarique Fosu (Reading) & Ben Amos (Bolton Wanderers on loan).
Outs: Adam Chicksen (Bradford City), Dimitar Mitov (Cambridge United), Cristian Ceballos (Sint-Truiden), Jorge Teixeira (Sint-Truiden), Nicky Ajose (Bury on loan), Roger Johnson (free agent) & David Ijaha (free agent).
Predicted First XI & Shape:
Tactics: Much like with Paul Cook at Portsmouth and Lee Clark at Bury, you know what you’re getting with Robinson when it comes to tactics. A variant of a 4-2-3-1 will be on show, with Jay Dasilva and Chris Solly asked to push up very high whilst the midfield five keep possession amongst themselves and patiently look for an opening. New custodian Ben Amos’ chief attribute is his ability to punch the ball safely out of danger and also accurately to a teammate to initiate quick counters.
Patrick Bauer’s strength at the back is mighty indeed and he will get stuck in whilst his partner Ezri Konsa has much more finesse on the ball and can comfortably play as one of the double pivots at the base of midfield or as an attacking right-back and performed excellently for the national U20s side earlier this summer.
Ahmed Kashi has played himself into contention during pre-season and could get the nod to be the primary candidate to break up play and recycle the ball out wide to stretch the opposition and distort their shape. Jake Forster-Caskey has flattered to deceive in a red shirt but is an all-round central midfielder when in form and has the ability to place direct free-kicks very competently.
Billy Clarke will be tasked with being the shadow striker who will drop deeper when possession is turned over. With the ball, he will burst forward and link up closely with Josh Magennis. If one of the inside forwards has control, he will move alongside the Northern Irishman and beyond him to beat the defensive line from a low cross or a through pass. His strong left foot also means he is a good fit to come short with the ball and aim for the far corner when in the half-space.
Of course, the fulcrum of the team is still Ricky Holmes. He is quick, a good technical dribbler, expert finisher and dead-ball taker and always shows himself to receive a pass when others might shy away from taking a risk. Promising youngster Tarique Fosu has similar skills and can play anywhere behind the main striker, allowing a small degree of flexibility in Robinson’s plans. Magennis still has a burst of pace to be useful in more than just one phase of play but will still be the focal point of any high balls and crosses into the penalty area.
Predicted ‘Area’ of Finish: Safe but sorry. The talent is there in abundance (and I haven’t even mentioned the explosive but injured Mark Marshall up until this point). There are plenty of promising U18s (and U23s) coming through into the roster. If this was almost any other club, you’d expect them to be in the play-offs minimum… but at this moment in time, Charlton Athletic are not a picture of stability. If Robinson doesn’t get off to a roaring start, what assurances are there for him that he’ll be given more time? He has had two transfer windows to reshape the squad into his own image. When it works, it will work spectacularly. However, he is not someone who ever really seems to have an effective Plan B and when you couple that with the chaos at board level and the heavy atmosphere there, it is not the ideal platform on which to launch a promotion assault. They could prove me wrong but it would require something which has been hitherto lacking: cohesiveness.