Despite a late flurry under the caretaker guidance of Lee Bowyer once again Charlton Athletic will be playing in League One next season. The London side failed in their play-off clash with Scunthorpe United and will now compete in the third-tier for the third season in a row.
Charlton have been in something of a downward spiral for some time now, with the Roland Duchatelet era one of the darkest in the club’s history.
Throughout that time, the club has also let some very talented players go. Especially it seems, in the goalkeeping position.
This summer England travel to Russia in the World Cup and regular number one Joe Hart will not be with the nation. He has been left out after a poor season with West Ham United and, instead, England are taking Burnley stopper Nick Pope.
In terms of form, he has been the outstanding English goalkeeper in the Premier League this season. Charlton fans will, of course, remember him from his time at The Valley. Pope spent five years at Charlton but, most of it was out on loan. Spells at Harrow, Welling, Cambridge, Aldershot, York and Bury took up most of his time as a Charlton player.
It was not until the 2015-16 season that he got a run in the first-team with the Addicks, but left that summer to join Burnley as back-up to Tom Heaton.
He is not alone. At one point in the 2014-15 season, Pope was second choice whilst Neil Etheridge was third – both behind Stephen Henderson in the pecking order.
But Charlton released Etheridge at the end of that season. He went on to become a regular with Walsall and this season was a star for Cardiff City as they won promotion back to the Premier League.
Charlton have had a good keeper this season. Ben Amos has been an ever-present for the club during his loan spell from Bolton Wanderers. Charlton must make sure they keep hold of the former Manchester United man as he could be a perfect option for a potential promotion push next season.
Losing him may not turn out to be as regretful as Pope and Etheridge, but Charlton will want to ensure they finally keep a talented keeper at The Valley.
Three reasons Ben Reeves is an excellent addition for Charlton Athletic
Charlton Athletic have completed the signing of Ben Reeves from MK Dons on a two-year deal after months of discussions, the club’s official website announced.
The Addicks have invested a significant amount of time trying to bring the talented midfielder to The Valley. Talks between the club and player started back in May but at that time Reeves wanted to consider his options.
Despite interest from many clubs, the highly sought-after midfielder finally decided to reunite with Karl Robinson.
The two spent three seasons together at MK Dons, which included a promotion to the Championship from League One. It also included the campaign which saw Reeves win MK Dons’ Player of the Season.
Charlton’s capture of Reeves shows real intent and should excite fans. The creative midfielder has proven himself in League One and was key to his former side’s success.
Now in East London, what can Reeves bring to The Valley to help them mount a serious challenge?
Charlton’s bottom-half finish last season didn’t accurately reflect their performances.
The Addicks didn’t concede goals on a regular basis like the teams that finished around them. Even third-place Scunthorpe shipped more goals than Charlton did.
Instead, what Charlton lacked was goals. The Addicks may have conceded less than the Irons last season, but they scored 20 fewer.
This time round, they will need to be more clinical in front of goal and Reeves will contribute his fair share. The 25-year old scored seven goals and assisted a further six last term.
In fact, during his time at MK Dons, Reeves has either scored or assisted 56 goals in 135 games – a ratio some strikers would be proud of.
The Northern Ireland international has played in all of England’s top four divisions during his seven-year career. In that time, he has never been shown a red card, not in a single league or cup game.
That’s not to say the midfielder shies away from a tackle. Reeves has picked up a number of yellow cards during his career but he has never fallen foul of repeating his mistake.
No team can afford to go down to ten men, especially one looking to challenge for promotion. Reeves’ disciplinary record suggests he won’t make the mistake of seeing red. Now it is down to his new teammates to do the same.
It is no secret that Reeves is most comfortable and influential going forward. However, during his career he has played every midfield role imaginable, as well as cameos up front and at left-back.
Last season alone he played as an attacking, central, left-sided and right-sided midfielder as well as a right-winger and centre forward. Robinson will be as aware as anyone of Reeves’ versatility, due to their time together at MK Dons.
The scale of Reeves’ versatility makes him a more valuable member of the squad than most. He played in seven different positions under Robinson at MK Dons and will likely be utilised in numerous roles for Charlton this season.
How can Charlton get out of their current state of decline?
Charlton’s return to League One football so far has been very unimpressive with only two wins in the first 11 games. This poor form sees the Addicks lying 18th in the table, their lowest ranking ever since the club began in 1905. The club has never had to experience League Two (or 4th division) football but have never been as close to it as they are now. It has been going downhill since the start of the 2013 season and has shown no sign of seizing up since.
Going through manager after manager, fans thought relegation from the Championship last season had forced the club into making the right changes, appointing an English manager with experience in Russell Slade and spending money on talent that has proven themselves in the league; yet somehow no improvement has been seen, with the team missing a win at home in their last four matches at the Valley.
Charlton fans are still protesting against the owner and CEO of the club, but a few are also calling for Slade’s head as well after poor tactics on display has already cost the club points and also after losing in the Checkatrade Trophy to League 2 side Crawley town, at home. Fans who went to the game said it looked like Slade had ‘given up’. So what is the reason Charlton can’t stop their free-fall, despite the extra effort being invested into the club?
Russell Slade’s tactics are not working. Ever since Josh Magennis joined the club, Slade has stuck him up front by himself, just to have hopeless long balls hoofed up to him. In doing this, he is leaving strikers Nicky Ajose and Lee Novak on the bench, both of whom scored a bunch of goals for their respective clubs last season. One striker isn’t enough and this has frustrated fans a lot, leading them to sing “put two upfront” on more than one occasion.
This is the reason behind the reds only bagging two wins so far. Slade needs to change things up. If he wants to carry on playing Magennis by himself then he needs to have Holmes as right winger and Lookman on the left. Charlton have a good reputation for scoring, having failed to find the net on just 3 occasions, but the amount of chances the club have created and haven’t put away has proven the difference, with many of the draws and losses experienced not reflecting the dominance the club has shown.
Secondly, the defence. Unlike last season the defence isn’t a major problem so far, but looking at the club’s goal difference you wouldn’t be able to tell that Charlton have been dominating matches. The Addicks difference at the moment is 0, with 12 goals scored and 12 conceded.
This makes sense for a team who has drawn over half of their matches, but as mentioned previously, the club holds a good reputation for scoring goals. Nonetheless, conceding on average just over a goal a game isn’t great and Charlton have more-than-qualified defenders and and capable goalkeeper, and should be holding sides to clean sheets. However, like the rest of the team, the form doesn’t seem to be there.
The Addicks have simply got to improve on recent performances. The club boasts players who have quality and are good enough to receive international call ups, after all. Hopefully Russell Slade doesn’t end up as just another manager in and out the Charlton door, as he is a veteran who knows the game, but form will have to change in order to prevent this.
Charlton should be able to win the league with the quality at their disposal and the regime of the Belgian owners is not at complete fault for what is currently happening at the Valley. Passion needs to be shown on the pitch, something for the fans to notice and get behind.
So, with Charlton just three points of bottom of League One, one would hope performances don’t continue and that this start is enough of a wake up call so say that, just because it is League One, doesn’t mean you can just half-hack yourselves back to the Championship; 100% energy and effort is still required.
Why do Charlton need more signings to reignite their Championship ambition?
Charlton’s attempt to get back into the Championship suffered an early blow as they picked up one point in their first two games of the season. They lost 2-0 to Bury away, then drew at home to Northampton. These results alone made everyone involved with the club realise that League One may be a bigger task than first thought.
Many fans thought that the Reds had made enough summer acquisitions that the team that suffered relegation was now equipped for an instant bounce-back. Charlton’s attacking front looks solid, even if the bench and reserves were looking a little dry of talent. The team look set to be really strong, however, a week before the new season Slade said he was still hoping to sign “five or six” more players before the start of the season.
This all changed when Charlton sold around five or six players including Jordan Cousins, Gudmundson, and Stephen Henderson along with others on loan to other clubs like Tony Watt. These exits happened so quickly, one after another, became a massive setback especially when out of the six signings Slade targeted, he had only completed four so far in Andrew Crofts, Kevin Foley, Jason Pearce and Declan Rudd, none of which are currently signed for longer than a year, with the exception of Pearce who is on a 3 year deal. Slade may be right, Charlton need an additional three signings to deal with the recent loss of players.
Charlton have done very well with attacking signings. Nicky Ajose, Lee Novak, and Ricky Holmes are all great additions to the squad and that particular part of the squad seems strong enough despite the poor showing upfront against Bury.
Slade has said, according to the News Shopper, that he hoped to sign a new player before their match against Cheltenham in the first round of the cup. He wouldn’t give anything else away but rumours of striker Josh Magennis joining the club proved to be true with the Northern Ireland international signing on a two-year deal, this signing came as a surprise with other areas of the squad needing more attention. Slade says he will give the team ‘presence’ up front which fans feel The Addicks already have enough of in Ajose and Novak.
The midfield, as predicted, was noticeably suffering without Cousins and Gudmundson and while Rick Holmes shone on the right in Gudmundson’s spot Andrew Crofts and Kevin Foley weren’t getting themselves stuck in as much and an element of passion and desire seemed to be missing.
Both are potentially short-term replacements for the injured Ahmed Kashi but another central midfielder needs to be signed especially if Charlton continue to play a formation with 3 central midfielders. Hopefully, Foley will be a back up to Solly as a fullback, Johnnie Jackson will remain as a leader in the squad while Crofts will have an impact from the bench.
As a replacement for Crofts, Slade may follow up his interest in Scunthorpe midfielder Stephen Dawson, especially as the pair have previously worked together at Orient. According to the Evening Standard, Slade believes Dawson has attributes that will help the Addicks push for promotion while he may also be a better option than Andrew Crofts until Kashi returns from injury.
Defensively, Charlton also look thin on the ground with Patrick Bauer, Harry Lennon, and Alou Diarra all out injured. If Foley operates as a backup right-back to Chris Solly and Morgan Fox stays on the left even though a new signing may be needed, Tareq Holmes-Dennis will provide backup to Fox.
The centre-back position is where the problem lies. Even though The Addicks made a great signing in Jason Pearce, who won the league with Wigan last term, Roger Johnson really drags down the defence with his sloppiness. Keeping Pearce in the squad is vital despite his basic error giving away a penalty against Bury but a replacement for Roger Johnson is definitely needed.
Former Charlton youngster Michael Turner is a vocal team leader at the back and his strong and confident with the ball. According to South London Press, Slade was interested in him when he was first appointed as manager and as the defender is now rumoured to be available on a free transfer, his acquisition would shore up a shaky defence.
Speaking of Norwich, Charlton signed Declan Rudd from the Canaries on a season-long loan. This was a great bit of business as Rudd looks to be a great keeper. Having Dillon Phillips as a backup keeper is fine but 1 more keeper should be brought in to make up for the loss of 2 keepers this summer.
Alex Cisak, a former player of Slade’s would provide solid back-up. The Leyton Orient shot-stopper made 12 clean sheets last season.
The only reason another striker should be brought in is if Ademola Lookman decides he wants to leave Charlton, which is very unlikely as he’s signed a long-term deal although it hasn’t stopped Liverpool keeping close tabs on him. The midfield needs to be refined while the defence could do with strengthening.
The strikers were getting long balls up to them all game and no real attempt at passing their way up the pitch in the first two games of the season. This didn’t lead to many chances so that needs to change. Charlton need to have their squad complete ideally before the window shuts and if Slade proceeds to bring in the players he wants the style of football should change for the better leading Charlton close to that top two finish.
Featured Image – All Rights Reserved by Steven Rittey
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