16 March 2015

Charlton 1 Blackburn 3: catching up

I seem to have taken a month's break from this blog, and I've largely missed out a remarkable transformation in Charlton's fortunes.

I think, despite his promising start, Bob Peeters won't be remembered kindly. I've seen it argued that Charlton have been better organised under Guy Luzon. I'd argue they are less organised. Instead, they are set free to improvise and make opportunities for themselves whereas under Peeters they were over-organised into immobility and caution. As results had got worse under Peeters, he'd only increased the rigidity of the team's play, and the players had become frustrated and impatient. Some played for their own self-respect; some effectively gave up.

Luzon's had an even better start. The last time we were gathered together, brothers and sisters, was after the out-of-the-blue win against Brentford. That game saw two decisive changes: Watt and Vetokele playing together, and some brilliant imposter in Bulot's shirt. Those changes have been maintained, and you can see that the players have a new liveliness about them. They're happy to be part of a team.

Four wins out of five effectively brought the season to a happy end: relegation fears swept aside and nothing but a healthy serving of schadenfreude pie to look forward to when Millwall and Blackpool go down. I feel quite sorry for Blackpool fans, totally ripped off and betrayed by the club's owners, but not for anyone else (you know who I mean).

And so it was no surprise that Charlton started Saturday's game with the kind of lackadaisical folderol more commonly seen in late April, when the holidays are booked and players are mainly thinking about how to avoid hidden cameras in the late-night hotel bar.

After 15 minutes Chris Solly needlessly gave away a throw-in. Quickly taken, it set up Rhodes to score the first of his two goals. You might have hoped it would jolt the Charlton team into life, but the second goal, just two minutes later, was even worse. A desperately slack back-pass from Buyens, which Johnson treated with patrician contempt, preferring to concede another goal than touch the ball, and the game was over.

The man next to me was enraged by this. Fair enough, I suppose, but Charlton's defence was so hapless on the day, it felt mean to have a go at them: like swearing at a new born kitten because it can't do differential calculus. The rest of the team did what they had to do, even though it was pretty much pointless from then on.

The result dented Luzon's record, but it's still too early to say if he's a good or bad manager. Someone needs to sort out the defence, and I'm pretty sure it can be done.

The real concern, though, is this. In a normal club, Luzon could use the remaining games to prepare the team for next season: bringing on promising youngsters and planning the replacement of some loanees and senior players. He's obviously got the core of a decent squad which, when given the right conditions, can beat almost anyone. In Duchatelet world, though, nothing can be taken for granted. Luzon, I would suggest, has very little idea what his squad will look like in August, or even if he, regardless of results, will still be here. The club has an opportunity to grow, but will it be taken?

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