After the World Cup Trust Writer Phil Runs the Rule Over Charlton's New Look Squad
It has been a busy summer in SE7. Change though, is necessary for stability and the acquisitions have answered more questions than they’ve created – we are purchasing from outside the network, we finally have money to spend, and occasionally we do think British. Scepticism does remain, for example what happens to Igor Vetokele should he have a good season, but for all intents and purposes we are better set than this time last year.
Change also requires time to work correctly. It is unlikely that we will replicate the early form of our League One promotion season. Due to this upheaval the squad should only be judged once we reach October. Our patchy pre-season form should be forgotten and the likes of George Tucudean and Johann Gudmundsson judged once they are settled in the country and comfortable in their positions. It may also be best to avoid direct comparisons with the players whom they are replacing.
Although transfers were made before his own arrival, fitting his supposed mould we can guess that Bob Peeters has had a say in all incoming players. This does make one wonder why the announcement of his own signing was seemingly delayed, perhaps there were legal wranglings with Waasland-Beveren that we don’t know about. Otherwise who was targeting players early in the window?
Stephen Henderson’s arrival indicates that Peeters is using his coaches as a source of information and scouting. Henderson has strong links with Ben Roberts, this is a good indication that we are not confined to only thinking inside the box, or in this case network.
Peeters however, does appear to still have his hands tied somewhat. Presumably the free transfer of George Tucudean from Liege was not his strongest preference, especially if the rumoured bids for Chris O’Grady are true. O’Grady though, apparently wanted to be one of our highest earners. Large wages on a journeyman striker are not the way to financial fair play.
Similarly, the free transfers of Andre Bikey, Tal Ben Haim, Franck Moussa and Johann Gudmundsson can be seen as shrewd business. Although some may prefer a more British spine to the team, clubs such as Charlton are forced to feel the effects of the over inflation of English players’ transfer values. See Chris O’Grady above.
At current Igor Vetokele looks to be our ‘marquee’ signing and will be the focal point of much of our attacking play. His departure from Copenhagen was met with bewilderment in both Denmark and Belgium, his alleged transfer fee of £2.4m our biggest spend since the frustrating days of Alan Pardew. Having played under Bob before, we can safely say that this is a Peeters signing. His success, or potential lack thereof, we will therefore be able to lay firmly on Peeter’s shoulders.
Early impressions of Vetokele have been positive. He proved one of the few bright lights in a dour loss at Welling, before netting twice in the thrashing of a Gibraltar XI. Similarly George Tucudean appeared to work immediately with his new teammates and found the net. His performance at Ebbsfleet this week however, was largely anonymous. Please resist the temptation to compare him to a certain Frenchman.
Given the disjointed nature of our pre-season fixtures, collective and individual performances are hard to read into. Loic Nego has enjoyed more pitch time but will need to improve if we are not to bring in more cover for Lawrie Wilson and Chris Solly. Yoni Buyens seems to have settled quickly and provides a quality replacement for a certain West Ham bound midfielder. The departure of Poyet also means Jordan Cousins will see more time in his preferred central role.
The defence can only be assessed after facing quality opposition. It is vital that whoever partners Michael Morrison fits straight into the team. To not do so would be to throw away points. Pressure is also on Nick Pope or Stephen Henderson to not only be our goalkeeper but a leader and organiser. One would hope that our first choice defence will be allowed to gel against Peterborough and Portsmouth.
Overall then, we can state that the quality of our purchases have been greater than in January. However, there is a sense of unbalance that will need to be addressed. Regardless of Loic Nego a player is still needed on the right, plus Reza Ghoochannejhad’s expected leaving will leave a hole up front. A pessimist could also be say that we have gambled on the defence. Bikey has been known to blow up, Ben Haim has passed his best and Joe Gomez is untested. Once experienced enough though, we know we will be able to rely on Gomez.
Success will depend on our own individual expectations. Some will be happy to avoid a relegation battle, some will expect a playoff push. Despite being attractive on paper, the opener at Brentford will prove a tough test against a confident team riding the crest of promotion. Alarm bells should not ring if we leave Griffin Park pointless, instead look forward to days out in Brighton, Bournemouth and erm, Huddersfield. This season one thing is for sure – it won’t be boring.