Charlton’s lightening quick start to the Championship has been a surprise to many this season, with Lee Bowyer’s side picking up an impressive 14 points from their first seven games, with the Addicks registering four wins, two draws and one defeat, showcasing their momentum which has continued from last season’s promotion.
The South-East London club underwent something of a summer rebuild after securing their return to English football’s second-tier, with the Addicks losing a total of 12 players this summer for various reasons, with a high majority leaving on free transfers, including key performers from last term midfielder Joe Aribo and defender Patrick Bauer.
In response to this, Bowyer bought in 14 players to supplement his remaining squad, with central defenders Oshilaja and Lockyer arriving from two League One clubs to cover the losses of last season’s first choice partnership, Bauer and Bielik.
It is Krystian Bielik who perhaps Addicks fans feared would be the biggest loss for their side, with the player performing excellently during his loan spell from parent club Arsenal for the Addicks last season, as the Polish defender registered an impressive 18 clean sheets in 34 League One appearances last term, leading to Derby County splashing out a fee of £7.38 million to secure the services of the 21-year-old.
Given their brilliant start to the season, it is fair to say that Bielik’s departure hasn’t affected Charlton too badly with the Addicks’ regular partnership of Jason Pearce and new signing Tom Lockyer proving to be a solid duo in the centre of the Charlton backline so far this campaign. With Charlton registering two clean sheets so far this season, conceding just six goals in their first seven Championship games.
One of Bielik’s main strengths is his ball-playing ability, with the Polish international having recorded a pass success rate of 82.2% in his first five Championship appearances this season, with playing short passes being a big feature of his style of play.
Charlton have dealt with this loss of passing quality by operating with a more direct style this season that involves the use of attacking down the wings by attacking more directly, meaning they may be weaker at keeping possession of the ball.
But on the flip side, they are better at creating chances through individual skill from the likes of Lyle Taylor and Jonny Williams, emphasising Bowyer’s philosophy of playing the ball around in their own half before hitting teams on the attack down the flanks.
By adapting his team’s style, Lee Bowyer is allowing his team to comfortably deal with the loss of Bielik. However, the Addicks boss will also be hoping that his new defensive partnership in Pearce and Lockyer can continue their solid start to the campaign, as clean sheets will provide a solid foundation for the Addicks to achieve their primary objective this season of maintaining their Championship status.