What happens next at Charlton Athletic?
Background image: Dom Fellowes, CC BY 2.0
Charlton Athletic are adjusting well to life in the Championship. Yesterday, they defended the Valley against table-topping Leeds. The Addicks 1-0 victory lifted them from eighth to sixth and dropped the Lily-Whites to fourth. Under Lee Bowyer's guidance, they've shown steady form. Five wins in eight matches [against two defeats] is a dream start.
Star striker, Lyle Taylor continues to fire in the goals with five this term. He has help as well. Chelsea loanee, Conor Gallagher found his feet with three league goals. New signing, Jonny Williams has four assists. Macauley Bonne picked up the winner against Leeds. Meanwhile, experienced centre-half Jason Pearce organises the team with strong leadership. The early signs are good that Charlton can handle the step up in quality.
Tactically, Bowyer likes to stick to his 4-4-2 diamond in home games for width but he went with a 4-2-3-1 against Marcelo Bielsa. Gallagher and West Ham loanee Josh Cullen push the team forward from the flanks. Sam Field and veteran Darren Pratley sit deep in midfield, offering protection. Their support allows Williams to play closer to the forwards.
It's a deadly attacking trio and, with Taylor injured, nonetheless potent with Bonne taking his place. Tomer Hemed can also step in as a target man when Bowyer feels the need to prioritise defending.
Gallagher and Cullen proved they could work without the ball as well, neutralising Leeds' wingers, Jack Harrison and Helder Costa.
While the formational adjustment paid off in spades against Bielsa's 4-1-4-1, Bowyer isn't one for swelled heads. The gaffer expects his side to focus on staying in the division rather than setting their eyes on potential promotion. To use his word, the once well-travelled midfielder [Charlton, Leeds, West Ham, Newcastle, the Hammers again, Birmingham and finally Ipswich] prefers to remain a "realist" in the face of all the promotion talk surrounding the side.
The Addicks were last in the top flight in 2006/07 when the trio of Ian Dowie, Les Reed and Alan Pardew couldn't continue the 16 years of good work Alan Curbishley put into the Valley. Such depth of faith in a manager isn't seen too often in the professional ranks anymore. Sean Dyche and Eddie Howe are the Premier League's longest-serving managers. Both remain in their first decade with Burnley and Bournemouth respectively.
Life hasn't been without its problems for Bowyer. When Taylor was fit, he had to listen to talk that Charlton was a one-man team. He'll be happy that Bonne quieted those critics and that the squad didn't listen.
The fixture list doesn't get any kinder for Charlton fans. Second-place Swansea visit the Valley next week then it's off to Craven Cottage for a tilt with tenth-place Fulham. Home to Derby and away to promotion playoff rivals [sorry, Lee] Bristol City follow.
The table is tight just nine games into the season. No less than seven teams are within a single result of sixth. One slip can send you tumbling several places as Leeds discovered to their dismay. In that context, Bowyer's levelheadedness is a boon to his side. It's a season in which they must put their heads down and take each opponent as they come. If, in April or May, they look up to find they remain in the playoff picture, that is when they can accept that pressure on their shoulders.
Lee Bowyer insists his team will be going for the jugular against @LUFC on Saturday...
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