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THE FOOTBALL LAB | Imbalanced Saddlers Defeated by the Addicks

10:00 am Sunday, 21 August 2016
Following Saturday afternoon's Sky Bet League One clash between Walsall and Charlton Athletic, Gabriel Sutton of 'The Football Lab' joins us and shares his views as the Saddlers suffered their second defeat in succession.
Following Saturday afternoon's Sky Bet League One clash between Walsall and Charlton Athletic, Gabriel Sutton of 'The Football Lab' joins us and shares his views as the Saddlers suffered their second defeat in succession.

Walsall looked to have secured a scarcely-deserved point when Kieron Morris’ late drive found the bottom corner, but Nicky Ajose completed his brace two minutes later to inflict back-to-back defeats on the Saddlers. It was a disappointing performance, in which the team had a questionable shape and looked vulnerable in wide areas.

We saw a high tempo start, Simeon Jackson pressing high up the pitch. Franck Moussa put himself about early on but his shooting wasn’t the best, though the same could be said about his teammates. Walsall’s midfield battled well but once their opponents got past it, problems arose. The team was operating with two full-backs in Jason McCarthy and Joe Edwards whose natural positions lie elsewhere. The latter struggled against Charlton’s strong right side.

It became too easy for them to put crosses into the box, meaning last ditch work was often required from centre-backs James O’Connor and Matt Preston. Walsall’s energy levels declined throughout the first half, although they had a brief spell of pressure on the half hour mark. Declan Rudd was forced into a double-save, stopping Jackson from point-blank range before parrying Kieron Morris’ effort.

However, forward Andreas Makris lacked agility while right-back Jason McCarthy always wanted to move un-threateningly inside. George Dobson struggled to impose himself physically, meaning Charlton’s players had space to run at the back-line on many occasions during the second half. Even their second goal came when Walsall had a point to protect, Magennis able to run at the centre-backs before teeing up Ajose.

Walsall needed width to stretch the away side’s defensive structure but with Rico Henry injured and Anthony Forde now at Rotherham, they were instead left with a narrow midfield and uncomfortable full-backs. Their every pass was played inside, even in the last 10 minutes, leaving one fan to joke: “just as well we’ve got lots of time!”. The players finally saw the urgency in injury time, with Rudd having to thwart Edwards and Jackson in desperate circumstances, but his fumbled catch signalled a defeat for the Saddlers.

Some of the blame for the defeat will be laid at the door of Jon Whitney, and to an extent rightly so. However, he is working with a depleted squad, about a third of the squad of which occupied by young players with negligible league experience. If he is forced, two weeks into the season, to field players out of position and play a team that has no width or natural full-backs, one must question whether he has been given the funds he needs.

A cynic might suggest that Whitney had been given the job because he is keen to break in management, therefore low-maintenance. He was less likely to challenge the board when they let go of most of the better players and didn’t offer the funds to replace them. As good as last season was for the Saddlers, this one could prove more challenging.

Visit theFootbalLab.co.uk where Gabriel Sutton aims to provide regular insight, opinion and in-depth analysis on every club in the top four leagues of English football.


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