As the umpteenth ball sent in the general direction of George Tucudean was won by a Fulham defender at Craven Cottage on Friday, the groans and grumbles in the away end grew louder.
On the night, those groans were directed at Tucudean and the general performance of the Addicks, but, on reflection, were more symptomatic of Charlton’s lack of forward options.
For while Bob Peeters’ previously unflappable back four has become a little flimsy in the past week or so, it’s up top where there’s a general call for more.
Without Igor Vetokele, Charlton have been forced to call on an inconsistent forward in Tucudean, a teenager in Karlan Ahearne-Grant and deploy the likes of Franck Moussa and Frederic Bulot in an unnatural position.
In fact, even with Vetokele, the Addicks are somewhat reliant on the Angolan. With only seven goals scored in the nine games since the start of September, some support for the currently injured forward would seemingly be vital.
Of course, all of Charlton’s problems in attack will be solved once Simon Church returns, but until then, it’s an issue that needs addressing.
Make use of the senior forwards already available
If only for a few days, Tucudean’s performance against Bolton Wanderers convinced Charlton fans they were in no desperate need of additional forwards.
For Tucudean, after a less than impressive start to the game, was superb. His goal was well taken, his assist for Johnnie Jackson’s strike clever and unselfish, and his all-round play improved as the game progressed.
But the Romanian’s display at Craven Cottage on Friday night was a reminder that asking for him to consistently deliver his probably asking too much. In fact, only in two games for the Addicks, against Derby County and Bolton, has Tucudean looked competent.
And even when Vetokele does return, the evidence so far suggests the former Standard Liege man isn’t quite the ideal man to partner the Angolan. Although not for the want of trying, Tucudean’s ability in the air and hold up play isn’t quite good enough.
Nonetheless, supporting Tucudean may have its benefits; a run of games may be what he needs to find some confidence and a level of consistency.
It would also, of course, be the cheapest option, while the likes of Franck Moussa, Frederic Bulot and Johann Berg Gudmundsson can provide alternative options in attack if needed.
Bu having to rely on players that might perform and pushing wingers up top shouldn’t be the solution. Not making an addition to the forward line when it is so desperately needed would be somewhat naive.
Throw Karlan Ahearne-Grant into the deep end
Amid the carnage at Fulham on Friday night, the performance of 17-year-old striker Ahearne-Grant offered a real positive to the disappointed Addicks.
A combination of pace, skill and an attitude that seemingly means Ahearne-Grant will always look to move directly towards goal meant the teenage forward was Charlton’s biggest threat in his short period on the Craven Cottage pitch.
However, at just 17, it’s unfair to put the pressure of scoring goals on his shoulders. For all the excellent qualities Ahearne-Grant showed, which were also on display at Bournemouth, he did appear a little uncomfortable when in front of goal and lacked a bit of composure.
He’s clearly an exciting talent, but it’s possibly a little too early in his development for him to lead Charlton’s forward line. Given his pace and tricky, he’s a luxury option to have from the bench for now, but too raw to be a regular starter.
Sign a forward on loan
While Peeters has made it clear delving into the loan market wouldn’t be his preferred choice, with the stance seemingly one shared by Roland Duchatelet, Charlton’s lack of potency without a fit and performing Vetokele suggests there would be some benefit in such a view being rethought.
Even with Vetokele fit, there’s still a need for at least one more body up top, and signing a striker on loan fills that gap until a better quality player can be brought into the club in January.
With Wolves (Yannick Sagbo), Huddersfield (Grant Holt), Sheffield Wednesday (Gary Taylor-Fletcher) and Brentford (Danny Graham) all acquiring respectable forwards in recent weeks, the idea that striking options who could perform a role in Charlton’s squad are not out there is a myth.
In fairness, I go along with Peeters’ idea that signing a loan player for the sake of it isn’t worth it, and utilising the club’s academy is the better option. But this isn’t simply a signing for the sake of a signing – an additional body is desperately needed, at least as a stop gap until January.
Wait until January and recruit a forward of genuine quality
The final weeks of the summer transfer window were filled with Charlton fans desperately begging for the club to sign a striker. Seemingly, the club put all their eggs into a basket containing an Alice band and a tear drop tattoo, meaning it was too late to find and secure the signatures of replacement targets.
Should a similar situation occur in January, in which the Addicks are unable to recruit a decent forward, the general health of several Charlton supporters will come into question, and I’ll probably go on a rant about what a stupid decision it was to sell Yann Kermorgant. No one wants that.
It’s therefore the case that, whether a forward is signed in the interim, a good quality target man and a respectable pacey forward absolutely must be signed in the January window. The target man with the view to being first choice, and the pacey forward an alternative should Vetokele suffer injury again.
Recall Joe Pigott and/or Piotr Parzyszek
After Pigott did this…
and Parzyszek did this…
it’s easy to see why there are calls for the loan pair to be brought back to SE7.
It’s a reasonable suggestion. Both Pigott and Parzyszek play in the role the Addicks require most, a target man, and will be full of confidence from their relatively successful loan spells at Newport County and Sint-Truden respectively.
However, it’s important to remember the level these goals have been scored at. Asking a player to step up from League Two to the Championship is a huge ask, while the quality that has arrived from Belgium’s top tier suggests scoring goals in the nation’s second tier counts for not a lot.
And while at Charlton, neither forward has shown a capability of playing in the Championship. Pigott’s struggles have been there for all to see, while Parzyszek’s performances for the U21s last season were less than impressive.
While it would fit Peeters’ mantra of giving youth a chance, recalling either of the pair is probably a gamble too far. Apart from in terms of numbers available, it’s hard to see how either would improve what the Addicks already have.
Stick Bob Peeters up top
Possibly the most logical suggestion. The one time Belgium forward is still in relatively decent shape, has the physical presence (just ask Uwe Rosler) the Addicks are lacking and would certainly give continuous determined displays.
However, goalscoring and match sharpness may be an issue for the 40-year-old, who retired six years ago. His nice suit would get ruined, too.