After a decent start to the season, hopes were high for Ben Garners Charlton squad to make something good out of this season. However, a poor run of games has seen The Addicks rapidly fall down the table and find themselves in 16th. Whilst teams like Ipswich and Portsmouth battle it out for the top spots, Charlton have lacked any form of clinical conviction, failing to turn silky football and smooth passing into three points. The big question is who is to blame for the disappointing results? Or is it multiple factors combining?
It’s fair to say that most fans are pointing their fingers at Charlton Athletic CEO Thomas Sandgaard, but why? Well, when the Dane took over, he set his ambitions high and raised hopes with the club seeking Premier League football within five years, stating “football is easy” and that he is going to ‘blow this league out of the water’. Two and a half years of poor results later, and Charlton fans are calling for his head for several reasons.
Firstly, Sandgaard failed to back new manager Ben Garner in the transfer window, spending a grand total of £0 on signings. More importantly, they failed to replace former striker Conor Washington, who was let go by the club at the end of last season. As the season has gone on, the lack of a striker that fits Garners desired system becomes more and more apparent and is looking like one of Sandgaards biggest failures yet, especially with teams like Portsmouth and Sheffield Wednesday signing proven League One goal scorers and are now fighting for promotion.
As well as this, Thomas hasn't helped his reputation by increasing matchday ticket prices. Since then, The Valley has felt a mere shadow of what it used to be like as less and less fans are willing to pay the extortionate prices to come and watch mediocre football at the club week in week out. The atmosphere has suffered significantly, and the overall feeling of the club is very negative now.
In Sandgaard’s defence, he has shown signs of investment in the past with the signings of Jayden Stockley, Charlie Kirk, Scott Fraser, Chuks Aneke and Diallang Jayesimi all costing him six figure prices. However, this season has been a different story as Sandgaard has stated on several occasions that he needs to make up money to overturn losses made in previous seasons especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, other clubs aspiring to reach promotion have all managed to spend money this season on their squad, showing that maybe the Dane isn't cut out for owning a football club and doesn't quite know what he's got himself into.
Ben Garner and the squad
Despite most of the blame landing on Sandgaard’s head, some questions need to be asked about manager Ben Garner in recent weeks. Last Saturday’s game made it zero wins in seven for the Addicks and the manager must take some of the blame. The Charlton players have been extremely sloppy in the defensive third and simply not good enough in when it comes to finding back of the net. Whilst the football being played is easy on the eyes, it is not getting the results needed to get for the club’s aspirations.
Garner has recently tried some new tactics as on Saturday he started out playing five at the back to accommodate Charlton’s poor defensive record but was forced into changing the system at half time after an abysmal performance that's saw the players being booed off. This didn't come as much of a surprise as Garner had previously tried the five back at Fleetwood where they lost the first half 1-0. Whilst the second half performances were much better in both those games, it was simply too little too late, and most will feel that Garner got his initial line-ups wrong.
However, some of Garner's tactical decisions have been forced on him by the lack of a goal scoring striker in his squad. For example, Garner is having to accommodate for Jayden Stockley’s style of play by playing two striker formations rather than use his desired 4-3-3 formation in recent games. As well as this, in the previous seven games there have been multiple times where the players have let him down by not being able to convert their chances. Recent games against Forest Green Rovers and Barnsley were tough to take as the Addicks dominated the game but still came away with nothing to show from it.
It must be said that the crisis Charlton currently find themselves in is mainly down to the incompetency of their CEO Thomas Sandgaard. However, manager Ben Garner will feel disappointed that he is yet to rectify the Addicks’ issues on the field.