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Making Sense of Makienok

The chap standing in the home dugout had been managing in the Belgian third tier just over a month before. Two percent a figure more reflective of the amount of supporters inside an empty Valley sat on a sofa than the amount holding posters in protest. A disorganised performance without the side’s leader, and effort lacking in a circumstance when it was desperately required.

You could name several events that occurred during Saturday’s defeat to Ipswich which perfectly represent the failings of the current Charlton regime. A desperate afternoon in SE7.

But maybe one of the most telling signs of failure, aside from the scoreline, was that an almost universal cheer of relief was heard as the summer’s marquee signing was withdrawn midway through the second half.

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For Simon Makienok had struggled to such an extent that his contributions succeeded only in making Ipswich’s task a less challenging one, and providing further cause for anger among home supporters.

His afternoon began with the Dane losing aerial contests. Tommy Smith and Christophe Berra undoubtedly excellent defenders, but they had no right to be winning almost every single ball against a man with such a large height advantage. Makienok weak, and being bullied by the experienced duo.

It ended with him mistiming his jumps to such an extent it seemed as if he had lost the desire to be involved in any sort of contest. His early leaps not genuine attempts to win the ball, and Ipswich able to prevent the Addicks creating any sort of pressure. His confidence evidently fragile, and too weak to cope with such a period of adversity.

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Particularly detrimental given the importance the tall target man has to the side. His hold up play needed as a release, and his link-up play vital for Charlton launching attacks. By the time Reza Ghoochannejhad was being readied to replace him, Makienok could only attempt to blame those delivering promising balls into the box for his struggles, ignoring the fact he statically occupied a poor position.

In fact, as the Dane lashed the air in frustration that Tareiq Holmes-Dennis’ cross had not reached him, the Covered End copied his action. Directing their anger at him, furious with his attitude. Eventually delighted when the number nine appeared in red on the fourth official’s board.

Sarcastic cheering as a player is substituted an act of criticism previously saved for those who share the ability and effort of Frank Nouble. Not the addition to the squad that dramatically increased supporter confidence prior to the season getting underway.

For though Makienok only joined the Addicks on an initial loan from Palermo, it appeared to be a signal of intent. A 6’7 centre forward, seemingly filling the void left by Yann Kermorgant, with international caps for Denmark and an impressive goal-scoring record in his native land’s domestic game.

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His Italian parent club paid just shy of £3m for him in 2014; a reflection of his perceived talent. A failure to play more than four games for Palermo before being sent to SE7 justified by a struggle to settle in at the Serie A club, and doing little to taint optimism.

But optimism, both in regards to the club itself and Makienok, have not so much been tainted since then, but violently destroyed. The club a mess, and Makienok’s performance on Saturday leaving some to suggest that he is fulfilling his role as successfully as Katrien Meire is hers. More than a handful wanting the forward put on the next flight back to Italy.

Such a view is an incredibly harsh one, and not one that I agree with.

For Makienok, in addition to being a colourful character and owning a wonderful dog, has shown he possesses genuine ability on more than a handful of occasions this season.

His efforts beyond half-time, particularly after his goal gave him a desired lift, against Hull City a key factor in that incredible victory. His performance in the win over Sheffield Wednesday outstanding, and arguably the complete opposite of the one given in the weekend just gone. His determination at St Andrew’s unquestionable, and constantly succeeding in holding the ball up.

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So too was his presence desperately missed during an injury plagued spell that meant his contribution during the 12-game winless run was minimal. When he did play during that run, he frequently gave opposition defences something to think about, and often looked the most like making something happen for the Addicks.

But those positive performances make it more obvious to see why Makienok is the source of such frustration and anger. For every Sheffield Wednesday-like display, there’s an Ipswich-like abomination.

His misses against Nottingham Forest preventing Charlton from taking three points, and his overall play too weak for a man of such physical stature. Ishmael Miller looked the more threatening target man in the defeat to Huddersfield Town. Middlesbrough supporters mocking his performance at The Riverside as much as they celebrated their victory.

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When he has played such an important part in positive results, it’s unbearably disappointing that his efforts, at times, have been so desperately poor. It’s incredibly difficult to understand why such inconsistency exists.

I would suggest the main cause is a case of confidence. He improves with every positive contribution over the course of 90 minutes, but is unable to respond when things aren’t going his way. His start against Wednesday impressive; his start against Ipswich abysmal.

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So too, rather bizarrely, can you suggest that Makienok is physically weak. Not just based on the evidence from Saturday’s defeat, but strong and experienced Championship defenders have coped incredibly well with a striker who stands at such a height. He should be winning more headers, holding the ball up more often, and making it harder for defenders to dispossess him.

He also possesses rather questionable footballing intelligence. Of course, some of his link-up play and movement has been superb, but those moments have been rarities. Too often does he take up poor positions, make the wrong decision in and around the opposition’s box, and flick to no one in particular even when the ball is won.

The only reassurance is that his major faults are things that can be improved, but there isn’t really enough time. A stronger mentality needs to be discovered, particularly with the situation Charlton are in. Adaption to the Championship is a slow process for foreign players, and Makienok needs to discover how to compete with skilled and experienced defenders on a more consistent basis. He and his teammates need to develop a greater understanding, something which isn’t helped by the uncertainty in the dugout and the constant turnover of players.

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And they are faults that must be addressed, given the correlation between how Makienok performs and how Charlton do in general. His inconsistency only reiterates how important he is, with the Addicks more competitive when he plays well, and hopeless when he does not.

But that our first game of the final month of the calendar year is approaching and the most promising signing of the summer is yet to completely convince, or at the very least completely adapt, is yet another catalyst for supporter frustration.

Undoubtedly, Makienok is better than what has come before. His struggles to adapt not so desperate as Piotr Parzyszek, and he has provided more positive performances already than George Tucudean did. He has not failed.

Neither, however, as he succeeded. The extent of those performances that you can label as dire meaning the Kermorgant-shaped hole is as empty as it ever was.

Makienok has it all to do to fill the Frenchman’s boots, and he must if this season isn’t going to continue on its course of misery.

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