Firepower shortage threatens to spoil Charlton Athletic’s season

The turmoil surrounding Charlton Athletic has been well documented; the civil war between distant owner Roland Dutchalet and the anguished Addick’s support has been ongoing for over five-years now and shows no sign of halting.

Despite the turbulence from the boardroom above him, club icon Lee Bowyer has once again admirably steered Charlton into promotion contention after falling short in the play-off’s last year.

But has his employer passively signed the warrant condemning his side to another season languishing in the third tier, with the club failing to replace their leading scorer?

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Charlton’s strong form this season, up until the new year, was built on the successful attacking partnership of Lyle Taylor and Karlan Grant.

Taylor arrived on a free transfer from AFC Wimbledon in the summer and struck up an immediate understanding with Reds academy graduate Grant.

The latter’s presence at the top of the Valley scoring charts with 14 league goals would have been a surprise to most associated with the club after a quiet campaign last year.

However, this in itself was a testament to his personal development under Bowyer, and to his budding partnership with Taylor leading the line.

Unfortunately for Charlton, the vibrant enhancement in Grant’s game was recognised elsewhere, and the club hierarchy authorised a Premier League move to Huddersfield Town.

Dutchalet has been absent from the Valley for some time and has drawn fair criticism for the club’s decline, including the loss of popular personnel.

In many ways, the sale of Grant shouldn’t be surprising, and in fairness, the majority of supporters in SE7 would have been expecting nothing less.

Grant isn’t the first promising youngster to depart and won’t be the last under Duchatelet’s reign.

Although few clubs have the clout to avoid losing players against their will, the timing of the departure was a significant blow to Bowyer.

Before leaving, the influential pairing of Grant and Taylor had been the cornerstone for a revival after a sluggish start to the season.

From the 1st of September to the 22nd of December, Bowyer guided the Addicks to an astonishing run of results which included just four defeats and two draws, resulting in 12 victories.

Despite being a model for consistency for the majority of the campaign, their recent form has regressed to a disappointing stutter, with Grant’s removal the key factor.

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Charlton have struggled in-front of goal since their strike force was disbanded and have dropped precious points in the promotion race.

Until recently, it didn’t seem out of the equation for the Reds to stalk the top two, however, those aspirations have surely fizzled out.

Without their leading scorer, Charlton have scored just three goals in four games, with two of them coming in a resilient victory at Wimbledon at the weekend.

This makes grim reading for Addick’s fans, who have averaged 1.47 goals per match this season, and at the time of writing, are comfortably the lowest scorers in the top seven jostling for promotion.

Charlton haven’t been quite as prolific as others on occasions this season, but the worrying stat is just how many of their goals this season were down to the dynamic duo.

Just over 50% of the current 50 goals scored by the Addicks have been netted by their strikers (26).

In comparison, their next highest scorer is midfielder Joe Aribo, with just five strikes.

Without his partner, Taylor has yet to find the net since returning from his suspension, cutting a frustrated figure in the recent stalemate with Blackpool.

He looked more of a threat in the triumph against his former side recently without scoring, but he is just one booking away from a two-match ban that Charlton could certainly do without.

Despite being outscored by his former strike-partner, there’s no doubting Taylor has been the Reds talisman this year.

Twelve league goals at this stage of the campaign is a healthy return, but there’s no doubt that Taylor’s overall contribution has been far more significant.

The fact is quite simply, that his performances this season prior to Grant’s departure have warranted more than his current tally of a dozen – keeping him fit and firing is beyond essential for the remainder of Charlton’s campaign.

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Bowyer confirmed to The South London Press last month that Dutchalet had blocked a move for former Wolves striker Joe Mason, who would have been a welcome addition to an attacking unit desperately short on numbers.

As things stand, the only senior strikers in the squad are Taylor, Josh Parker, and the mercurial Igor Vetokele.

Journeyman forward Josh Parker arrived in Greenwich from Gillingham, but a return of only 16 league goals in 79 appearances for his previous employers has hardly enticed the Valley faithful.

Vetokele’s winner against Wimbledon was his first goal in 13 appearances this season, further outlining the necessity for further attacking personnel.

It’s fair to say that recent statistics for both hardly mount a legitimate claim for their prospects of supporting Taylor in accruing the goals required to ensure Charlton are in the promotion picture come May.

But they will be given every chance to make a telling contribution. After all, Grant hardly lit the league alight last year before his breakthrough stint this term.

Despite the turbulence from the boardroom, Bowyer had been shrewd in January prior to Grant’s departure.

The capture of Jonny Williams was widely considered a coup and he certainly has the creativity and influence that would have been relished by such a potent strike force.

Under Bowyer, Charlton have constantly crafted a healthy amount of chances for their forward line this season.

On average, Charlton produce 9.79 shots per match, with five being on target.

Now possessing a talented influencer like Williams in their arsenal, these figures can still be supplemented, but with a light attacking unit, the Addicks could lack a cutting edge. Fans will be hoping that a lack of attacking options to convert these opportunities won’t come back to bite them when the season concludes in May.

There is however cause for optimism. Much of it in fact. The season is far from over for Charlton, and the timing of a gritty, ground-out win at Wimbledon could hardly have been better.

They still possess excellent prospects of finishing in the top six, but supporters will be wary with how last season collapsed at an identical hurdle.

A lack of goals was a concern last term, and with a real dependency on Lyle Taylor for the final quarter of the season, the prospect of a repeat scenario would be damning.

The deflating fact being that they previously heralded one of the league’s most productive attacking partnerships until it’s unceremonious end.

If there is any squad and manager deserving of their owner’s backing in these scenarios, it is undoubtedly that of Charlton and Bowyer, who has performed minor miracles in his short spell in charge.

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Taking last year’s short-comings into consideration, it’s hard to make a case to defend the Addicks estranged Belgian owner in these perplexing circumstances.

Ultimately, it’s hard to deny that Charlton’s season has been rocked by the inconvenient timing of Grant’s departure.

The financial prize of promotion to the Championship is insignificant compared to the riches of the Premier League, but one would still assume it would be a healthy boost to the immediate future of Charlton and as well, an increase to the prospects of a sale for Duchatelet.

Agreeing to the sale of your leading scorer with the prospect of a promotion is a confusing decision to say the least.

Under Bowyer, there’s no doubt that the future could be bright on the pitch if the ownership issues can be amended.

The club’s spell of seven consecutive seasons in the Premier League feels as if it were a lifetime ago.

But the way he has constructed a bright, competitive squad with a healthy academy presence on a shoe-string budget with anarchy above him is a testament to his qualities as an up-and-coming young manager.

With prospects of a second consecutive assault at promotion via the lottery of the play-offs still in rude health, both he and Addicks fans alike will hope that their campaign fails to disperse from a lack of firepower, due to the latest in a catalogue of brazen acts from their callous owner.

The Author

Daniel Marsh

Freelance writer with a passion for the Football League. Beginning the process of a mental career change into Sports Journalism, writing mainly about the EFL.

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