You can have incredible players, consistently able to excite and perform to an exceptional standard, led by a tactically astute manager, whose system suits those players perfectly, and still not hold the advantage in a game of football.
For confidence is arguably the most important ingredient to a side’s chances of victory. Eleven men full of self-belief, regardless of their relative ability and stature, can outplay another eleven in a negative mindset.
It’s all the more important in the Championship; the margins between sides so minute that a single factor, and a factor not exclusively connected to football, can be the difference.
And no two clubs have exhibited the impact confidence can have on results better this season than Charlton and Brighton.
When Bob Peeters’ side are full of confidence, they can seemingly beat anyone in this division. Wins over Derby, Watford and Norwich while self-belief ran through the veins of every Addick prove just that.
But without confidence, there’s no certainty Charlton are capable of beating any opposition. What started has a series of bad luck has led to a run of just one win in twelve, leaving the Addicks playing without energy, effort nor determination. Heads have dropped quicker after conceding goal than Simon Church will be.
While for Brighton, under the stewardship of Sami Hyypia, there was discontent and concern. A side who had become so used to challenging for a top-six place were beginning to develop serious relegation concerns; a group of confidence-lacking players left second best most weeks.
But, having parted company with Hyypia, the Seagulls have been rejuvenated. The temporary stewardship of former Charlton U21 coach Nathan Jones and the permanent management of Chris Hughton giving what was always a decent squad the injection of self-belief it needed.
With Brighton now unbeaten in four, Saturday’s clash at The Valley will see one side full of confidence, with hopes of quickly moving into the relative safety of mid-table, face another who, playing with such a lack of spark that it’s hard to confidently predict where the next win is coming from, are beginning to fear they may replace Brighton in the Championship’s relegation battle.
LAST MEETING – BRIGHTON 2-2 CHARLTON
A late equaliser from Lewis Dunk denied an Igor Vetokele inspired Charlton victory at the Amex in September.
Having given the Addicks an early lead, Vetokele put his side back ahead with 15 minutes to play after Dunk had equalised for the hosts.
But, with the points seemingly Charlton’s, Andre Bikey and Tal Ben Haim switched off after a stoppage-time corner was only half-cleared. It allowed Kazenga LuaLua to cross to unmarked Dunk, who headed beyond Stephen Henderson and rescued a point for the Seagulls.
Having won just once in 18 league games prior to Hyypia’s sacking, the sudden improvement since his departure has been quite remarkable.
The results have been excellent, a comeback home draw with Reading and away wins at Fulham and Brentford, and so to have the performances. After a torrid first half of the season, the Albion are beginning to look up.
Alas, there remains plenty of pressure on Brighton, who are out of the bottom three on goal difference.
The task for Hughton’s side now is to continue their current form and level of performance for an extended period, and not allow the bubble to burst once the new manager honeymoon period is over.
Hands are hovering over panic buttons, and not irrationally. There is no denying that Charlton’s recent form has been horrendous, both in terms of the points gained and the level of performance.
At times in this run of one win in twelve, the Addicks have shown they are capable. The second half performance against Cardiff City the biggest sign that the players and boss who represented Charlton in the first weeks of the season haven’t been replaced by their inferior look-a-likes.
But, in truth, that was merely a one off. While it offers hope that the Addicks may yet return to their early season form, consistently making the same mistakes, a lack of determination and an overall inability to win games are more prominently occupying the thoughts of Charlton supporters.
Alas, while not completely addressing Charlton’s current problems, a single win will change the mood in SE7. Whether achieved by the flowing attacking football and the outstanding defensive efforts of the first few months of the season, or simply through several acts of unbelievable good fortune, confidence will be given the much needed boost it needs.
Panic buttons pressed or panic buttons left to gather dust? Fail to win and it’s the former; win and it’s the latter. An important afternoon for the Addicks awaits.
Brighton will be able to call upon full-back Bruno again after the Spaniard severed the final game of his three-match man against Brentford last weekend.
There could also be a return for Jake Forster-Caskey, who missed the trip to Griffin Park through illness.
But the Seagulls will be without regular Charlton tormentor Kazenga LuaLua, with the winger currently injured, and former Addick Dale Stephens, who is a lot-term absentee.
But there remains enough creativity in Brighton’s midfield to cause the Addicks a few problems. Joao Teixeira, who impressed when these sides last met, especially.
With suspensions, injuries and departures, an already small Charlton squad is down to the bare bones.
Callum Harriott and Yoni Buyens will both be suspended for Saturday’s game, while Frederic Bulot is away on international duty with Gabon. With Franck Moussa, although reportedly close to a return, not yet match fit following injury, options in midfield are limited for the Addicks.
There are also problems out the back, with Rhoys Wiggins let to recover from a broken foot and Oguchi Oneywu a doubt with a hamstring injury.
The signings of goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic and forward Tony Watt relieve some of the strain on the Addicks, not least on Igor Vetokele, but a lack of numbers remains a concern.
KEY BATTLE: FRESH LEGS VS LITTLE LEGS
Given Charlton’s injury problems, there’s a strong chance their bench on Saturday will again resemble a crèche.
Not ideal in the best of times, but even less so given the lack of confidence the Addicks currently have. Changes are needed not only to freshen up the starting XI, but also a requirement should heads again begin to drop during the course of the match.
It puts pressure on the Charlton side that takes to the field in the first instance to get the job done.
And should the game be a tight one going into the latter stages, it means Brighton will hold the upper hand. There squad not large, but enough quality will be on the bench to exploit tired bodies, tired mind and inexperienced youngsters.
By that virtue, it’s of paramount importance the Addicks make a strong start to Saturday’s encounter; something they have been unable to do in recent weeks.
Given performances of late, the number of players unavailable and Brighton’s upturn in form, predicting victory is difficult.
Alas, this a game that Charlton simply must get something out of. Not just because the games coming up are difficult ones, where points will be incredibly difficult to achieve, but in order to stop a lack of confidence turning into something more poisonous.
You would like to think the importance of the game would be enough to motivate Peeters’ side, at least to momentarily stop the rot. Charlton Athletic 1-1 Brighton and Hove Albion