Once again, it feels like forever since we saw City at the bank, writes Tom Morton.
This weekend we host Charlton who, on the face of the headline stats, are much of a muchness to us this season. They sit on one less point than us but have conceded two fewer goals. So it goes. However, it feels like there is something of a difference & hopefully in our favour.
So far the Addicks have failed to win away from home leaving them at the bottom of the away performances table. Admittedly they are scoring in almost every game, but generally only one and conceding pretty regularly. Overall Charlton haven’t won since thrashing Plymouth 5-1 in mid-August so they come to us with a long string of draw and losses behind them. Our form feels much better. For example, if you look at xG vs. actual goals – we are overperforming (xG of 0.86 but scoring 1.4 per game) vs their underperformance (xG of 1.38 but only scoring 1.35 per game).
On other stats we look stronger; we average two more shots per game than the Addicks, with a conversion of 13% vs. 10%. One number I quite like is that it’s taking us on average 8 shots to score whereas they take 10.5. I feel like those are the numbers you look at as a manager and think “if we keep tight at the back, we might keep them under 5 ”.
Charlton are a fairly routine league one club; playing it wide down the wings and looking to come into the box. Very few direct balls and an average pace. At the front, they feel somewhat shorthanded, and indeed Charlton press highlights they are keen for Chuks Aneke (who has been out since April) to return as a talisman. In clips they are scrappy going forward with players struggling to get into good positions in the box. At the back, they look a decent outfit but do struggle to recover when the lose the ball – putting pressure on them will have a real effect. Our strategy seems simple – nice and tight around the box to limit shots, close off the wings and look for quick balls forward.
One familiar face will, of course, be Connor McGrandles. Interestingly, after leaving us during the summer, McGrandles is not a first-team fixture. He’s started two games and come on as a sub in four so far having scored no goals. I always feel sad to see decent players who can compete at this level make moves but then fail to get games. Would he have been featured in Mark Kennedy’s plans? Who knows, but I imagine he would have been an asset.
Another familiar face we are most likely to see is Jack Payne, who has appeared in every game for the Addicks so far this season (three starts, seven substitutions). I really like Jack when he played for us – he is my kind of player. Nimble and aggressive going forward with something about him that says a “wonder goal” is in him. Yes he had a bit of a tendency not to pass at the right time, but I definitely feel worried about facing him as an opposition player.
We pulled the double over Charlton last season, both of them 2-1 wins. Last season they looked full on average as a side. Not bad, per se, they played some good football at times but never looked like a particular threat. In fact, their fans stood out more than anything else – my dad reminded me that one or two spent the whole game shouting and gesturing at the 617 and barely watched the match. That’s not away support I’d want to see.
Before the Addicks joined us in the third tier in 20/21, we had hardly faced them in the past. They spent a short period in the late 50s with us in the then Division Two, plus a couple of forgettable cup encounters in the 80s. And that’s about it. To be honest they had the best of us in most of those matches (we only won once). But in the last few seasons we’ve definitely gotten the initiative (three wins in four) and hopefully it will be the same again this season!