Charlton Athletic Season Preview: depth needed

On paper, Charlton Athletic had a squad that should have at least been in the top six last season. In reality, they finished 13th, some 13 points off their South London neighbours who occupied the final play-off spot and went up. To what extent should ownership problems and off-field turbulence pardon that underperformance? Supporter Marcus Hoare speaks to The Football Lab ahead of the new season…

It shouldn’t have affected things at all, however yet again the squad was left thin in key areas as seems to be the norm under Roland Duchatalet. Injuries to key players like Jason Pearce and Ricky Holmes left us at times with a shoestring side out as we just didn’t have the depth to compensate for those injuries.

Ownership is a thorny issue still here and will be regardless of any on field success. Some want the protests to cease to allow Robinson to have full support of the fans , others think that the best chance of getting our voices heard is to purely protest in Belgium where it’s known that it greatly upsets Duchatalet.

Karl Robinson built an excellent, attacking MK Dons side in 14/15. What does he need to do to replicate that work at the Valley?

Needs to add an attacking midfielder to the side primarily, the ongoing ‘will he, won’t he’ saga with Ben Reeves is growing tiresome. I don’t think we will be a side with one player scoring 25 goals , more of an emphasis on the 3 playing behind the striker to chip in with their fair share.

Academy graduate Chris Solly has played for the club since making his debut in May 2009. At a time of political tension, is it important to have a loyal figure like him around?

Chris will always be a club hero but injuries have unfortunately taken their toll on him so he’s not necessarily going to start every game. Would like to see some solid cover in for him as opposed to having to play someone out of position there.
Only have Solly and Johnnie Jackson really left from the last time we were in this league.

You’ve not yet signed a goalkeeper this summer. Is this a show of faith in Dillon Phillips, or do you expect a first choice stopper to come in?

I’d fully expect Karl to sign David Martin as the number one , free transfer and obviously played for many years under him at MK Dons. It would be a bit harsh on Dillion, who didn’t do anything wrong when deputising for Declan Rudd last season.

You conceded just 21 goals in the 23 games Jason Pearce was fit for last season. How important will his centre-back partnership with Ezri Konsa be?

Pearce was an absolutely integral part of the side when fit and with Johnnie Jackson moving more onto the coaching staff will likely be Captain too.
As for the centre back pairing it really depends on who stays, I’d expect Premier League interest in Konsa for certain. Could be Patrick Bauer or Jorge Teixeira lining up with Pearce if either of them stay.

Adam Chicksen looked a dependable performer last year. In the absence of a proven left-back, are you surprised he was released?

Surprised he wasn’t kept on as a squad player given that Lewis Page is injured currently. However I think Karl has his heart set on bringing back Jay Dasilva from Chelsea on loan as his first choice.

Josh Magennis proved more successful last season than Nicky Ajose. Does he have a wider range of qualities? 

More to do with the change to 4231 really. Ajose isn’t really suited to the shape we play now, whereas Magennis can hold the ball up and bring others into play. Don’t see much of a future for Ajose under Robinson with him seemingly behind Magennis, Tony Watt and Lee Novak.

Many expected winger Ricky Holmes to join Sheffield United. You must be delighted he is staying on? 

Best news of the summer for us, genuinely thought the lure of Wilder and Championship football would be too much for him. Possibly one of the best set piece takers in the Football League.

Mark Marshall was among the best wingers in League One last season. With him and Billy Clarke joining from Bradford, do you expect to have creativity this year?

Hopefully, we badly needed someone to take the creative burden off Holmes. Not sure if Clarke will be first choice in the middle of the 3 or if we’ll add someone else. Marshall gives us an outlet we lacked in the second half of the season without Ademola Lookman with his pace.

What are your thoughts ahead of the League One season as a whole? Any potential dark horses for you?

Think Blackburn have had a superb start to the window with the additions of Whittingham and Dack and for me start as favourites to win it. Dark horses for me are Portsmouth with the American takeover and a very astute manager in Kenny Jackett that knows how to get a side out of this league.

Where will you finish? You said top six was the minimum expectation last year – and TFL thought you’d win the title!

Has to be promotion. Think we probably need 3-4 more players in the door first to actually give us depth right across the park and to avoid having to rely on a very talented group of U23 players. Prediction: 2nd.

The Football Lab’s Verdict

Charlton have recruited strongly with new boy Marshall augmenting the attacking qualities of Holmes and Magennis. A promotion push is likely, should the Konsa-Pearce centre-back pairing remain intact. 4th

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