Much of Charlton Athletic’s good start to their Championship campaign can be attributed to the form that has been displayed by Lee Bowyer’s midfield, with the likes of Conor Gallagher and Josh Cullen having stood out for the Addicks so far.
Cullen, of course, is now in his second successive season with The Valley-based club, with the West Ham loanee having played a key role in the club’s promotion from League One last term.
The youngster has been in sparkling form for the Addicks so far this campaign, contributing one goal and one assist in his first 15 league outings, whilst also recording a pass success rate of 84.1%, which is due to his average of 47.7 passes and 1.5 key passes per game.
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West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini will surely be considering an early recall for the talented midfielder, with the Hammers clearly lacking quality in that area of the field.
In our latest FLW Six Pointer article, we analyse the prospect of West Ham possibly recalling Cullen in January…
First things first, how would you sum up Cullen’s start to the season?
“I think the 23-year-old has been a revelation in midfield for the Addicks this season, with the youngster playing a key role for the club when his side are in possession of the ball, as he helps to keep the tempo high.
“His on-field relationship with Gallagher and Jonny Williams prior to his injury, has helped to strengthen the way Lee Bowyer’s midfield goes about their business, with much of their play now becoming more possession-based as opposed to being more direct in previous years.
“The only thing that is really missing from Cullen’s overall game is his ability to score and assist goals on a more consistent basis, however, this is definitely something that should come in time for the youngster.”
What are his main strengths?
“His main strength is definitely his ability to act as an all-rounder in the centre of the park, with the Irishman capable of operating in both a box to box and deep-lying playmaker role, which are both responsibilities that he has taken on throughout the opening stages of the season.
“Cullen displays a great range of passing during games, averaging 2.8 accurate long balls per game, thus underlining his ability to switch the play, which in turn allows both Adam Matthews and Ben Purrington to get into offensive positions when the 23-year-old is on the ball.
“In addition to this, Cullen also provides a great screen in front of the Charlton defence, averaging 1.9 tackles and 1.1 interceptions per game so far, thus showing casing his understanding of defensive responsibilities.”
Do you think West Ham would be wise to recall Cullen?
“It would definitely add an extra option for Pellegrini in midfield, with both Mark Noble and Declan Rice so far failing to hit any kind of consistent form so far.
“Whilst Jack Wilshere has been suffering from injury issues once again, meaning that there would certainly be a vacancy in the squad for Cullen to fill if he did get recalled, as he would add a player capable of making box to box runs, thus adding something different to the Hammers midfield.
“It is telling that Pellegrini has had to deploy Robert Snodgrass in an unorthodox central midfield role, thus underlining the need for the club to strengthen that position.”
Would he be a regular starter under Pellegrini?
“He would most probably take his place on the substitutes bench if he did make a return to the London Stadium, with the former Manchester City boss preferring to utilise the services of Messrs Rice and Noble in the engine room thus far.
“By having Cullen to call upon from the bench, the Hammers boss will have a player than could, in theory, change a game, with Cullen possessing the ability to both maintain possession and play defence-splitting balls to West Ham’s frontmen and wingers.
“Cullen is surely seen as the long-term successor to Noble, with the 23-year-old being an ideal candidate to fill the void of the West Ham captain once he retires from playing.”
Would it be a big blow for Charlton?
“Absolutely no doubt about it, most people won’t have been surprised to see Bowyer bring Cullen back for a second spell at the Valley, with the Charlton boss clearly seeing the midfielder as a key component of his bid to keep the Addicks in the Championship this season.
“If they lost Cullen in January, it would leave them short of numbers, with the club already struggling with injuries at present, meaning that they are having to make do with the players that they have available to play.
“It will certainly be interesting to see what would happen if Cullen was to return to West Ham, as it would surely force Bowyer’s hand in the January transfer market.”
Do you see this happening?
“It is highly unlikely that Cullen will be recalled by Pellegrini, simply because the West Ham boss cannot guarantee the youngster as much game time as he gets on loan at Charlton, meaning any sort of mid-season return could negatively affect the 23-year-old’s development as a player.
“In theory, the move would only be feasible if West Ham suffered something of an injury crisis in the centre of the park, but at present, they seem to be coping all right with the ever-present duo of Rice and Noble likely to play the majority of games this term.”