Stumbling around on YouTube recently, I came across the highlights of Charlton’s 4-2 defeat to Leeds United at The Valley last season. It may well be the game that best sums up the woes of the previous campaign.
It was played following a run of five games without defeat for the Addicks, and they were starting to find their feet after a dreadful start to the season. In fact, the performance that day was commendable – one worthy of victory.
With Cameron Stewart to the fore, Chris Powell’s side played some decent football, were on top for the majority of the game and carved out plenty of openings.
However, that dominance and those chances created couldn’t be turned into a point, let alone three. The four chances Leeds were gifted, largely through individual errors from those in red, were taken by Ross McCormack, while Charlton’s openings weren’t taken. The 4-2 defeat not reflecting the run of play, but, more crucially, the difference between the two sides’ ability to take a chance.
So, it’s with that in mind, that this transfer window can only be deemed a success. Without wanting to diminish the impact his fellow signings have made, the fact the Addicks now have a forward, like McCormack, capable of taken the one or two chances that fall his way over the course of a match is huge.
To simplify that, stick Igor Vetokele into any side capable of creating a few chances, and they’ll pick up points.
In fact, without wishing to directly criticise the likes of Tal Ben Haim and Andre Bikey, who have performed well, it’s arguably the case that the Addicks remain a little uncomfortable at the back. Without a league clean sheet and with several defensive errors going unpunished so far this Championship season, it’s fair to say there’s room for improvement.
Nonetheless, snapping up a poacher has made Charlton something of a force, without even mentioning the positive impact of signing Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Franck Moussa or Yoni Buyens.
But no transfer window is ever perfect. Charlton fans know that only too well. Trying to ignore the pain of losing our best two players in January because some unknown Polish chap, who wasn’t actually very good, said he liked Matt Holland wasn’t much fun.
In fact, that window only serves to make the quality brought in during this one, resulting in an excellent start to the season, even more impressive.
It therefore seems amiss of me to pick holes in it and somewhat irrational to demand more. But, given how close Charlton have come to having the perfect transfer window, there’s an element of disappointment the day after the deadline for new signings passed.
First of all, there was the worrying start to the summer with Ben Hamer and Dorian Dervite departing, in addition to Diego Poyet. That’s without even considering the loss of Bradley Pritchard…(you’ve all seen his goal tonight, haven’t you? World class. What a man.)
While those early summer worries, thankfully, proved to be unnecessary and it would have been difficult to keep Poyet under any set of circumstances, it remains a frustration that Hamer and Dervite are no longer part of the squad, especially given how willing they were to stay if contract negotiations hadn’t been left until the eleventh hour.
Given the form that pair were in in the final months of last season, it’s arguable that having them in the side would improve what has been a slightly shaky backline.
In Hamer’s case, his distribution would also be an excellent asset to this side and the style of football Bob Peeters is attempting to get it to play. While Henderson and Pope are superb shot stoppers, and both have decent command of their area, their distribution isn’t as accurate or inventive as Hamer’s.
At the very least, you wouldn’t say no to having the bearded stopper and Dervite in the squad.
There’s also a frustration that what is a quality starting XI, capable of competing with any side in the division, hasn’t become a quality squad, capable of sustaining a play-off push throughout the season.
An injury or two, especially in attack, and all of a sudden we look pretty weak. The quality’s there, but the quantity isn’t.
There’s no question that we went after targets, but it would seem we put all our eggs in an Andy Delort shaped basket. When that didn’t come off, it left us chasing new targets at the eleventh hour and, like with the contract offers to Hamer and Dervite, leaving things until the eleventh hour rarely proves productive.
Many will argue that not signing another forward before the deadline isn’t an issue. Players will be snapped up in the loan window, and there’s still a handful of decent Championship standard players without a club.
But, generally speaking, it’s incredible difficult to find quality loan signings. Finding a fourth choice striker won’t be difficult, but finding a player capable of filling in for Vetokele should he pick up a knock or go off the boil is next to impossible. A young Premier League development squad striker isn’t going to be up to the task, and neither is a 30-something has been. At least Jon Obika has found himself a new club.
That lack of late business leaves the Addicks, I feel, a few cogs away from having a machine capable of sustaining a promotion challenge. Incredible frustrating given just how close we are to having a squad capable of doing so.
But, especially considering I feared a relegation battle, building an XI capable of consistently competing makes this window a smart one. I’ll give it a seven, maybe an eight, out of ten; a vast improvement on the zero out of ten in January.