One Ben In.
After a 36-day search, Ben Garner was officially named Charlton manager on the 8th June, signing a three-year deal with the club. The 42-year-old faces the unenviable task of gaining promotion whilst playing the “attacking style” of football that Sandgaard demands.
Since his appointment, Charlton have aggressively pushed his attacking credentials, emphasising that his Swindon team topped the goals, shots, and possession tables in League Two last season. However, I fear this focus could be setting him up for a fall. The statistics show that Garner plays possession football, recycling possession until an opportunity to advance the ball up the pitch presents itself. However, football fans are fickle, and there’s often a thin line between astute possession football and “boring, sideways passing” – the difference being whether or not the team is in the lead.
Regardless, the stats seem promising and could lead to an improvement if backed by new signings. When statistically compared with Garner’s Swindon, Charlton performances were generally weaker but contained some similarities. Interestingly, Charlton were 3rd highest for accurate long balls per game last season and 6th highest for shots taken inside the six-yard box. However, they were also 13th for accurate short passes, 23rd for shots outside the box, and 16th for number of shots overall. This suggests Charlton weren’t as bad in possession as first thought but lacked that killer edge needed to put games to bed.
Garner inherits a small and lopsided squad and will need to make some tough decisions in the coming weeks. His most effective strikers, Jayden Stockley and Chuks Aneke, are amongst the best in League One when fit, but seem unlikely to fit into Garner’s style. Will one of them be sold to fund new signings more suited to this style of play? Charlie Kirk, on the other hand, has returned to the club after Blackpool turned down the chance to sign him for £500k. Maybe he’ll get a second chance under the new manager.
Another area Garner will be tasked with improving is the academy. Despite some exciting cameos, Charlton’s academy has faltered in the last two seasons. Minutes played by academy graduates reached a ten-year low last season at just 1894 minutes, in the previous decade the average has been at least three times higher. Garner’s record looks fairly promising in this regard, 25% of total minutes played by his Swindon team last season were given to Academy or U23 players. At Charlton, that total was just 7%.
Two Bens Out.
Ben Purrington has played his last game for the Addicks, the 26-year-old left back departs after failing to agree a new contract with the club. Like Dobson, he was cast to the sidelines under Adkins but became an essential part of Jackson’s purple patch in late 2021. But ultimately, his lack of attacking prowess meant he was unlikely to remain first choice in Garner’s team. Garner’s preferred left back at Swindon, Ellis Iandolo, put in three times as many crosses and registered more shots than the majority of the Charlton squad (47).
The final Ben to mention is Ben Watson. The defensive midfielder’s departure had already been announced over a month ago and he leaves having played just 9 times this season, entirely under Adkins’ management.