With the infamously thick and fast December fixture list looming, Roland has decided to swing his well-used axe once more. His latest muse, Karl Robinson, boasts having spent six years in his first and previous managerial position at MK Dons. In the modern game, that is an unheard amount of time, only Arsene Wenger and Paul Tisdale (Exeter) have served their current clubs longer.
Clearly a manager serving for six years is an exception, rather than an expectation, but Robinson can realistically expect six weeks under this ownership before results will start to decide his future. In that time he has a lot to deal with, first and foremost, the protests. He got off to a fairly poor start in this regard, reportedly saying that they “need to stop”, which large sections of The Valley faithful will strongly disagree with. The protests will continue and Robinson will have zero input to the larger problems facing Charlton, at least in the short term. He’ll have to deal with that fact.
Our new manager will do well to keep his head down and focus on the football, the only issue he can feasibly address. For the majority of the season we have set up not to lose games, resulting in the 4th best defence in the league. Despite this, prior to Slade’s sacking we had scored 18 goals in 16 games, way off the pace at the top of the table. A reasonably strong team, setting up not to lose, will result in one thing- draws. We’ve had more of them than any team in league one. Draws are why Slade lost his job.
Robinson has talked the talk when it comes to addressing this issue, as all managers would. Never before has a man said the word “aggressive” as much as Karl in his description of how Charlton will play under his leadership. He certainly was noted for a high pressing, expansive style at MK Dons, just as Russell Slade was noted for being cautious in his previous roles. I have no doubt that Robinson will intend to play aggressively, but Charlton are quite simply lacking the players to adjust to his style.
The heart of any aggressive, pressing team is the midfield, which need to be dynamic and full of running. I’d fancy my chances over 100 yards against Ulvestad, Crofts or Jackson. They’re not pressing players. Then there’s the latest quote from Robinson: “I love wingers”, very natural from a man who demands width and forward running. Aside from Lookman, who often looks better down the middle, is prone to teenage spells of disappearing and is near certain to leave come January, we are lacking. Holmes is injured. Botaka, Chicksen and a cast of promising under-21s are worth a look, but clearly haven’t been ranked worthy of much inclusion by Slade, so can’t be regularly performing in training.
The new manager will certainly be looking to add to the midfield in January. He has four weeks to navigate this team to a position where they can push on in the new year with players, to compliment Robinson’s style. One thing is for certain, there’ll be pressure from all areas of the club. Forget the last six years, the next six weeks,a period of style adjustment, are vital in riding out the Charlton rollercoaster, and will tell us all we need to know about the new man in the hot seat. Transform the club into an aggressive, attacking unit and we have every chance of fighting for promotion, fail to impose your style and risk the ever looming axe that gave you the job.