There are two ways in which Charlton Athletic can respond over the coming days to Saturday’s victory over Bolton Wanderers. A victory rightfully celebrated as a proud performance by a determined group of Addicks left a man light from the tenth minute onwards.
The first plausible response is to use the win at the Macron Stadium as justification to avoid engaging in the transfer window’s hectic final exchanges. A performance so good, against a side flirting with an automatic promotion position, that the desperate need for Karl Robinson to add to his squad has been dispelled. To the delight of Roland Duchatelet, the cash collected from the sale of Ademola Lookman need not be relinquished.
To respond like that, however, would not be to the benefit of the football club. It certainly wouldn’t be to the benefit of Charlton’s play-off ambitions. A sign of complacency, if not an act worthy of more aggressive criticism.
The response required is for the Addicks to use such a marvellous performance, and impressive result, as a foundation from which serious momentum can be built. Admiring the effort at Bolton for too long, and allowing it to rid from the mind faults within that squad that have long been acknowledged, a dangerous perspective to take. An immediate need to remind one’s self that tougher tests are ahead, the gaining of points must become persistent, and that the squad still requires strengthening.
Even if you could make argument that there is enough ability and depth in each and every position, a look to the league table tells you that the recruitment of further players of greater quality is not to be sniffed at. The character and quality of the victory at the Macron Stadium worthy of making the gap much smaller, but six points still separate Robinson’s men from the top six. A need to be better than their opponents on a regular basis to achieve what was this season’s minimum target.
But, in reality, it’s not a case of strengthening for the sake of strengthening. This squad is not yet complete.
True, it’s not in the disastrously weak state that it has been for most of the time under Duchatelet’s reign. There are at least a reasonable amount of bodies in reserve who can contribute. Johnnie Jackson, Ricky Holmes and Lee Novak rising from the bench yesterday.
Particular improvement to be found in the centre of midfield. A position which seriously lacked quality and depth not too long ago, but is beginning to appear in much better shape. The signing of Jake Forster-Caskey, the emergence of Joe Aribo, and Ezri Konsa’s efforts further up the pitch all contributing to that.
Nonetheless, another body in the centre of midfield would not be unwelcome, particularly with it appearing apparent that Robinson will be committed to playing a formation that accommodates three central men. Another with similar attributes to Forster-Caskey would be quite nice, considering our other midfield men are the sort that are better off sitting deeper.
Then there comes a very slight concern at centre-back. Only through injury and suspension did the horror of Roger Johnson being involved seem quite realistic, but he has been far too close to the first team on too many occasions this season.
Patrick Bauer and Jorge Teixeira form a formidable pairing, while Konsa reaffirmed his quality yesterday, but I would feel more comfortable with another centre-back of similar status around. A shame that a return for Jason Pearce seemingly remains quite some way off.
But, given that the signing of a centre-back and a centre-mid would merely be adding strength in depth, I would suggest the main priorities are to be found further forward. Particularly with it seeming that Nicky Ajose, who has underwhelmed anyway, will be leaving on loan.
I think that regardless of Robinson’s commitment to playing one in attack, you would still want to replace Ajose with a similar style of player should he depart. A pacey and an agile goalscorer, able to offer something different.
In fact, Ajose has largely been deployed as a winger since Robinson has taken control, and it may well be the case that the former Swindon man, should he depart, will be replaced by a genuine wide option.
Nathan Byrne’s start encouraging, Holmes’ return to fitness a cause for celebration, and Botaka, though often frustrating when given a starting role, capable of having an impact off the bench, but another winger would be nice. Particularly given that I much prefer Adam Chicksen at left-back, and, though writing him off immediately would be unfair, Jay Dasilva’s debut wasn’t particularly impressive.
But the immediate concern is to find cover for Josh Magennis. Tony Watt ran himself into the ground at the Macron, and fought for every single ball, but he really isn’t suited to the lone forward role, while Novak has failed to impress since his summer arrival. A quality target man, who can provide competition once Magennis does recover, the main priority in these coming days.
Is the signing of a centre-back, a centre-mid, a winger and a striker going to happen? It incredibly unlikely. But strengthening the squad in such a manner would, in combination with the Bolton victory, provide some impetuous for a genuine play-off push from a position where we’ve long flirted with giving up on achieving a top six finish.
At the very least, given the funds that should be available and the chance we have to build a little bit of momentum, I would be incredibly disappointed if there isn’t a Magennis replacement, and subsequent competitor, through the door by 11pm on Tuesday.
A couple of days to definitively shape the squad, and make it one with a definitive chance of making up the ground between themselves and the top six. A hope the Addicks won’t simply settle for what they have already.