Johnnie Jackson’s rejuvenated Charlton Athletic has been built on solid foundations

3 min

Since the sacking of Nigel Adkins and the appointment of Johnnie Jackson as caretaker manager, Charlton Athletic have been rejuvenated.

Unbeaten in their last three league games, their newfound good form is built on defensive discipline and solidity with a high, more intense press.

Under Adkins, Charlton were too often found guilty of standing off their opponents, allowing them space to find a pass or take long distance strikes.

In comparison, Jackson’s side close the ball down quicker in key areas just outside the box as well as aiming to prevent crosses from wide areas.

Their new approach further mitigates risk by not playing out from the back as goalkeeper Craig MacGillivray now looks for Jayden Stockley high up the pitch from dead ball situations instead of searching for the short option.

This also off-sets any potential danger for the likes of Jason Pearce and Chris Gunter, limiting the amount of balls in behind and more direct attacking threats they have to deal with.

The defensive improvement has also been underpinned by the emergence of George Dobson as a solid defensive midfielder with the 23-year-old playing with the energy of a man determined to kickstart what has so far been an indifferent career. 

Dobson has shown both the physicality and acute awareness to snuff out threats before they become goal scoring opportunities. Against Rotherham, he was particularly effective in limiting the threat posed by the likes of Freddie Ladapo and Oliver Rathbone, breaking up play and getting Charlton’s own attacks started.

Alex Gilbey is another who has impressed – a mature midfielder who contributes both offensively and defensively, getting stuck in and winning the ball back as well as making bursting runs into dangerous areas when the opportunity arises, such as against Doncaster which led to him being awarded a penalty. 

When he receives the ball, Gilbey looks forward and is not shy of making a penetrative pass into space or switching play with a long ball and has quickly become integral to Charlton having midfield quality and dynamism.

Jackson has also given a new lease of life to Ben Purrington who has become more of a wing-back over the last few games as Charlton look to get forward more with the player creating an overload with Conor Washington and/or Elliot Lee. 

This draws opposition bodies in, which frees up space for the right-sided winger (either Jonathan Leko or Diallang Jaiyesimi) and allows Charlton to switch play to the opposite wing where there is space and time for the man. 

In his press conferences, Jackson is a direct and honest speaker and that approach is clearly the same with his players as they know exactly where they stand with him, and exactly what is expected of them on the pitch. 

READ MORE: Nigel Adkins may have gone but Charlton Athletic cannot make the same mistakes again

His integrity was also evident in his post-Rotherham interview – not blindly siding with his players who felt Rotherham had taken a foul throw in the build-up to their goal and did not take the easy option of criticising the officiating.

Instead, Jackson said he would rather concentrate on working on the training ground to correct defensive faults which lead to Rotherham’s goal, although in truth Charlton appear to have their defensive solidity nailed down under Jackson.

If the Addicks can improve offensively – by learning how to capitalise from counter-attacks and creating more chances – then the potential of this Charlton squad could finally be realised.

Jackson himself has stated he has managerial aspirations and, demonstrating both a clear tactical plan and effective man-management skills, his audition could not have got off to a better start so far.

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