Wanting to hide in the depths of away ends, pretending that events on the pitch are not happening, has been a familiar feeling for Charlton supporters this season. The Addicks suffering 12 Championship defeats on the road.
But they will not be alone in wanting to disregard what will be on display at Griffin Park on Saturday. Those that favour networks, statistics-based scouting and other alternative player recruitment methods will be doing their best to ignore the visual representation of the faults of such schemes.
For Brentford and Charlton are arguably the best examples of the dangers of applying soulless experiments to the running of a football club. Undeniable logic ignored in favour of stubbornly and naively abiding by systems that don’t function in practice anything like they’re meant to in theory.
At least for the Bees, who need not worry about relegation but have every right to bemoan their decline after last season’s play-off, there is a genuine opportunity to make their moneyball-type system more workable. The mistakes made by owner Mathew Benham and co-directors of football Phil Giles and Rasmus Ankersen can be corrected.
Mistakes, such as replacing a potent forward with a series of tame strikers not suited to the English second tier, dismissing a popular boss and dismantling a well-liked group of players in order to take a different direction, and replacing enthusiasm with apathy, which sound somewhat familiar.
The experiment in SE7, however, has already inflicted damage beyond the point of repair. Roland Duchatelet and Katrien Meire’s chances to alter their flawed, failing and poisonous philosophy turned down on numerous occasions, and it is primarily their insulting stubbornness that sees the Addicks travel to West London effectively eight points from safety.
While Brentford demand better, Charlton need change. With the Bees having little to play for and the Addicks stumbling towards a certain relegation, making those points seem more important than points in the final two months of the season.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 0-3 BRENTFORD
Guy Luzon became the fourth victim of Roland Duchatelet’s favourite hobby as defeat to Brentford at The Valley in October saw Charlton’s head coach lose his job.
The Israeli boss might well have prolonged his tenure had Franck Moussa not agonisingly fired wide in the opening moments, but the disjointed and downbeat Addicks never looked like preventing a seventh defeat in nine.
Particularly after Charlton’s gutless defence was breached midway through the first half. Alan Judge’s superb early cross allowing an unmarked John Swift to head home with relative ease at the far post.
And it was judge who effectively condemned Luzon ten minutes into the second period. The wide man given far too much space as he cut in from the left, allowing to curl an effort beyond the desperate dive of Stephen Henderson. Not for the first or last time this season, the fight of those in red was questionable.
Even more so as the Bees helped themselves to the simplest of third goals late on. Judge picking out Lase Vibe, and the forward converting while Patrick Bauer watched on. The last goal Luzon would watch from The Valley’s home dugout.
No team has picked up fewer points from their previous six Championship fixtures than Brentford, and only Charlton have less from their previous ten. No side has conceded more goals in their previous six games than Brentford, and only Charlton have conceded more in their previous ten. More than two months have passed, and a combined total of 1263 minutes, since a Brentford striker – Philipp Hofmann’s ultimately fruitless equaliser against Birmingham – last scored.
The sort of statistics that probably wouldn’t tick many boxes for those who deal with Brentford’s recruitment, and certainly haven’t impressed supporters. The atmosphere at Griffin Park one of frustration and disappointment.
Particularly with a certain degree of pressure placed on the Bees to succeed this season. Replacing Mark Warburton with Marinus Dijkuizen, and altering the direction of a side that finished in the play-offs last time out, needed to be justified.
Alas, it is has not. Ultimately replacing Dijkuizen with Dean Smith an admission of that, but the departure of key players in January, including Toumani Diagouraga to Leeds and James Tarkowski to Burnley, particularly after failing to adequately replace Andre Gray, Moses Odubajo and Stuart Dallas in the summer, has made his job a tough one.
In fact, despite Dean enduring a tough start to life as Brentford boss, much of the criticism has been directed towards those above him. That isn’t to say the former Walsall boss couldn’t do with getting a few wins under his belt before the summer.
If we’re going to face a return to League One, we might as well have some fun along the way. A former cult hero embarrassing those who run this club that thought he wasn’t good enough sort of fun.
For though it was Deniss Rakels’ stoppage-time winner, and Charlton’s chronic defending, that ultimately meant Reading came away from The Valley with victory, Yann Kermorgant’s outstanding first-half performance made him the Royals’ real match-winner.
The Frenchman, whose goals were applauded by home supporters, inflicting a 19th defeat of the season on the Addicks. A defeat deserved, regardless of Yaya Sanogo’s hat-trick that briefly looked to have earned his adopted side a point.
A 19th defeat of the season for the division’s bottom club. A third defeat in a row, leaving Jose Riga’s side eight points from safety when goal difference is considered. Three points claimed just once in the previous 18 games. It’s all rather grim.
Alan McCormack could return from injury against his former club, but the midfielder is unlikely to start at Griffin Park on Saturday.
The Irishman, who struggled to make an impression in SE7, has been sidelined for two months with a calf problem, and looks set to earn a place on the Brentford bench this weekend.
But the Bees will be without defender Maxime Colin, for who there is now a fear that he won’t return to fitness this season, and Scott Hogan, who will continue to gain match fitness in Brentford’s development squad after scoring for them on his return from an 18-month injury lay-off.
Charlton look set to welcome back Jordan Cousins after the midfielder missed last weekend’s defeat to Reading through injury.
The academy graduate is likely to come straight back into the side at Griffin Park, particularly with El-Hadji Ba unimpressive against the Royals and skipper Johnnie Jackson still out.
There will also be no Igor Vetokele for the Addicks, who is yet to recover from what was supposed to be a small knock suffered prior to the defeat to Bristol City last month, while Patrick Bauer remains absent and Harry Lennon serves the second game of a three match ban following his dismissal for violent conduct at Preston.
KEY BATTLE: PREVENTING ROGER JOHNSON FROM ENTERING THE PITCH
It is far, far too generous to suggest that the Addicks were unfortunate to suffer defeat against Reading last weekend.
Maybe not on those in forward positions, whose efforts were commendable and enough to briefly get a disgruntled Valley crowd on side. Sanogo, for example, certainly escapes the criticism that can be directed at his teammates.
But there can be no sympathy felt for the men that so pathetically attempted to deny the Royals. Kermorgant consistently left unmarked, Ola John always allowed to travel with the ball, and the calamitous nature in which Reading’s winner was conceded meant Riga’s side only have themselves to blame for the crippling loss. Sanogo’s work in attack made meaningless by Roger Johnson’s characteristically abysmal efforts in defence.
Defensive mistakes has been rife in this disastrous campaign, but to a huge extent in the previous three defeats. Fulham allowed to score from three corners, Preston utilising a set-piece of their own and breaking from one of Charlton’s, and Reading given the freedom of The Valley.
It’s meant that the slow improvements going forward, dented also by a frustrating toothlessness, have been unable to have any real sort of impact. A promising attack, followed by a chronic piece of defending.
As such, it is of vital importance that there is an improvement defensively. Judge may possess Brentford’s only genuinely goal threat, but presenting chances to out-of-form strikers and allowing them the opportunity to gain confidence is something we’ve done previously. Let’s avoid doing that again.
Or, failing that, find a way to prevent Johnson getting on the pitch. Maybe place a few cans in the away dugout.
Neither side willing to gain the confidence and form that they’re in desperate need of, and Riga optimistically suggesting that this point will be the turning point in our season #3208. Can’t wait. Brentford 2-2 Charlton Athletic