There’s no point whinging (yet) about the absence of players coming in, although if we were seriously in for Tucker and he opted for MK Dons it is obviously disappointing as presumably his choice was based on perceptions of ambitions/expectations as well as just money. Equally I’m not entirely clear if Purrington’s departure was down to a failure to agree terms on a new contract or Garner not fancying him – or both. And if the speculation that Gilbey is deemed surplus to requirements and the possibility that Kirk will still end up back at Blackpool, at the moment the squad is still contracting, creating more spots in need of filling.
For the record, a quick check on the club site and the first team squad now numbers 14, of which just three are defenders. Gilbey is still pictured – but Kirk is not, neither is Davison. Eight are midfielders (including Clare), with a goalkeeper and two forwards. And in case you think this paves the way for the U23s to step up, their squad as per the club site currently numbers six, including two goalkeepers.
On Tucker, with Inniss and Lavelle the only two current clear options – hopefully Elerewe can be considered a third (Barker doesn’t seem to be on the verge of first-team consideration), while it remains to be seen whether Clare will revert to midfield – we do need another for central defence, whatever formation we adopt. One problem here is that no doubt both Inniss and Lavelle will consider themselves first-choice (as and when they are fit) but we have yet to see whether they can play together as a pair. We’ve lost Pearce (from the playing staff, great to see him staying on in another capacity) and Famewo (presumably, can’t see the logic in him spending a third season with us and he seemed to have become a little disenchanted towards the end), plus Clare if he’s back to midfield and Gunter and Purrington as options in a back three/five.
With Purrington gone, following Mathews and Gunter out of the door, plus Soare and Castillo, pretty much the entire defence is basically to be assembled. That could be a plus for a new manager, enabling him to get in the guys he wants, but on balance right now it has to be a concern. When Sir Chris put together a new team which ran away with this league, we were able to cherry-pick. That’s not possible now. Compete yes, cherry-pick no, as we are not the relative attraction for the third flight that we were back then, even if talk that having Garner in is helping attract players.
Midfield for us is less a case of a blank page, more a question of whether the ones are what Garner wants (and by implication are able and willing to fit his style of play). In the centre of midfield we have two players we know would be an asset to any team in this division: Dobson and Forster-Caskey. We also have Fraser, on whom the jury has to still be out as we’ve just not yet seen enough of him. And then there are Gilbey and Morgan. Neither can be considered as cornerstones of a team, but I’d say if the system suited Gilbey could easily be in a promotion-winning team (especially if he could score more goals) while Morgan still has the potential to develop (and would be more valuable if he could add more goals).
So depending on the formation I’d say that losing Arter, Watson, Lee (assuming he does not return) still leaves us reasonably well covered in midfield in terms of bodies, but probably lacking some real sparkle in terms of goals contribution. Scope for a signature signing here.
As regards the wide positions, Blackett-Taylor, if fit, surely has to play. He can terrorise the opposition. Jaiyesimi and Kirk have yet to show they can really cut the mustard, while Leko will presumably not be returning. Depending on Garner’s views on these two, there would seem to be a space for another wide man.
Up front you have to say it’s down to the formation. My suspicion, from what has been said, tends towards a 4-5-1. I don’t think you can play a high line and a pressing game, and pass out from the back, with a 3 or 5. The obvious danger in that regard is that the units become separated and disjointed, as demonstrated by the first 20 minutes of the final game against Ipswich. It wasn’t even difficult for them. With a back four you have a line which can (IMO) move more easily up and down the pitch, especially if we have five in midfield in front of them, hopefully dominating possession.
That would suggest Stockley and Aneke often being asked to play pretty much on their own, although with support from two wider attacking players and central midfielders getting into the box. I hope there’s room for flexibility and a complementary forward, to enable us to change things at times. Can’t see that being Davison but would love him to prove us wrong.
The absence to date of incoming players does at least offer the opportunity to say thanks and good luck to those who are leaving. First and foremost JJ, for obvious reasons, but also Washington, Matthews and Purrington. Washington played as he talked, intelligently and thoughtfully, in patches very effectively. These would seem to be players released less because of their outright abilities – Purrington was/is a perfectly capable full-back and adapted very well to playing wing-back, especially with his reading of the opportunity to get on the end of balls across the box (and there will of course always be that goal, not many players have scored for Charlton at Wembley, at least excluding penalties) - but doubts about whether they will fit for Garner. The same would be said of Gilbey if he goes.
What these departures also do is set the bar pretty high when it comes to replacements. The only reason for letting them go (and I hope the business over the leak regarding JJ did not influence the decision over Washington) is to bring in replacements who will prove to be better. TS has said he has high ambitions for Charlton. This is a point in time for that to be demonstrated. And a little good news in the near future would not go amiss, before our hearts sink once more with the release of Papa John’s and Carabao Cup fixtures.