Charlton have enjoyed a more than positive start to the Sky Bet Championship season - with the Addicks picking up 11 points from a possible 15.
Lee Bowyer's side were the favourites for relegation back to Sky Bet League One, that's despite securing victory in last season's play-off final with the last kick of the game against Sunderland.
Lyle Taylor has been grabbing the headlines with four goals from his opening five games. That puts him among the top goalscorers in England's second-tier with only Swansea's Borja Baston able to boast better figures.
However, the one player who has proven to be the main cog in the engine room of the Championship side is Jonny Williams.
Four assists have helped him earn back a spot in the Wales squad for the latest round of international fixtures; although there are other factors as to why he has been deemed ready for involvement again.
His early form has been a huge positive in a Championship season which is already developing numerous storylines to follow. The midfielder has seen injuries stutter his development in recent years; limiting game time during various loan spells from Crystal Palace.
"It [injuries] has been my downfall in recent years," he told London News Online in January. "People can see that. It’s been a struggle. It’s not been a reoccurrence. I’ve had two shoulder ops in the last two seasons, you couldn’t really call it.
"I’ll do my best to stay fit now – eat, sleep and repeat. I’ll do the right things. It’s a really important time in my career."
He hit the ground running and played a significant part in Charlton's subsequent promotion months later. That form, alongside fitness, has carried over the summer and it's helped the Addicks enjoy a start better than even the most optimistic of supporters would have expected.
Just how important has Williams' contribution been this season? Tom Carnduff takes a look at the main statistics and the reasons behind his recent efforts.
The main stats
- Assists: 4
- Big chances created: 4
- Pass accuracy per game: 74%
- Ground duels won: 55%
- Fouled: 13 times
The stand-out statistic from the opening five fixtures of the Championship season is that Williams now sits in joint-first when it comes to assists so far.
Conor Gallagher has been the player to benefit the most with two of his goals coming with a helping hand from Williams, while he grabbed the helper on Ben Purrington's strike against Blackburn and Chuks Aneke's effort in their home victory over Stoke.
The big chances created also stands out. Again, Williams is a league leader - alongside Andreas Weimann this time - and the four big chances created have proven to be crucial to Charlton's early success.
The difference between the two players is that Williams has matched the number of big chances created with his assist tally. Those chances aren't necessarily the assists either, as demonstrated by Tom Cairney's three assists and one big chance created.
Pass accuracy sits at 74%. While that may not be the highest, it still puts the Addicks man alongside some of the most creative players in the division.
Leeds' Pablo Hernandez also finds himself on 74%, with Williams boasting better numbers in this area in comparison to Nottingham Forest's Joe Lolley and Bristol City attacking midfielder Kasey Palmer.
The interesting statistic and arguably one of the most important in terms of how he has adapted to life in this Charlton side is the ground duels won sitting above 50%.
Williams has always been known as a midfield with technical ability and flair to create opportunities going forward. However, the defensive end of his game has been worked on too and he's credited Charlton boss Bowyer with his help in that development.
"He’s definitely been helping me on my defensive side," Williams told Charlton's official website. "It’s made me fitter for a start.
"He’s working on all the aspects of my game going forward and tracking back, it’s something you see Lyle [Taylor] doing week in, week out. Even [Tomer] Hemed, he’s not been here long, and you’ve see him tracking back to the left back position.
"It’s things like that get you over the line. It’s them fine margins where you put the extra graft in to work for the team and it’s fantastic really, it’s great."
While it may seem like a low figure on the surface, it puts him at the top-end for players who have appeared in every game this season. It also sees him sit higher than Leeds' Kalvin Phillips; a player widely regarded as the best defensive midfielder in the Championship.
The ability to dribble and beat players means he is one of the most fouled players in the league. Williams has currently seen 13 fouls committed on him; only Huddersfield's Alex Pritchard and Barnsley's Mallik Wilks have had more.
That is crucial for Charlton for two reasons. The first of which being the chance for set-pieces in dangerous areas. The Addicks sit fourth in the table for goals scored from set-piece situations; a figure which will only rise the longer Williams is on the pitch.
The second reason is the ability to create opportunities from the midfield going forward. Opposition players are forced to bring him down more than most other players, showing how he can beat a man in duel situations.
Obviously, statistics are the base judgement for most players - particularly in a modern football world in which transfers are carried out based on the numbers posted in recent campaigns.
But beyond the numbers there is a player who is simply a joy to watch. The type of midfielder who can change the course of a game and have a direct impact only few in this division possess.
The big question always surrounds fitness. However, if he can enjoy an extended period of time with regular football, there is every chance he will continue on this current upward trajectory.
Stand-out performance so far
- Assists: 1
- Pass success: 81%
- Successful tackles: 2
- Shots on target: 1
- Passes towards final third: 16
- Through balls: 1
- Interceptions: 1
- Dribbles: 3
Williams' best performance of the current campaign came in the 2-2 draw at Barnsley, where he grabbed the assist on Gallagher's equaliser with 40 minutes on the clock.
The Wales international put in a fantastic all-round midfield performance; carrying out defensive duties while also posing that threat to the opposition goal.
With 16 passes targeting towards the final third, combined with one through ball and three attempted dribbles, Williams demonstrated what he can be like at the top-end of his game.
At the other end of the pitch, an interception combined with successful tackles ensured he had an impact in a defensive sense, despite lining up in the attacking midfield position.
With Darren Pratley and Josh Cullen sitting behind, Williams still played his part in trying to keep the opposition at bay. The point should be considered a great outcome given Barnsley's higher tallies for shots, aerial duels won, corners and tackles, alongside enjoying the better of the overall possession.
Without Williams, it's almost certain that Charlton would have left Oakwell empty-handed.
The reason behind the good form
Williams has pointed towards current Addicks boss Bowyer as one of the main reasons as to why he's enjoyed a strong start to the 2019/20 campaign.
Bowyer brought the midfielder to the club in January and then managed to complete a deal to sign him again following the expiration of a six-month contract in the summer.
Speaking to Charlton's club website after the victory over Brentford, Williams said: "I’ve had a full pre-season thankfully because of him. Had he not invited me along with the team I don’t know where I’d be at right now fitness wise, whether I would have played as much as I have right now, I probably wouldn’t...
"The end product is something I’ve always wanted to work on and it’s something that’s been missing from my game and If I keep working on that it might be nice to get on the end of a few chances but Bowyer’s just telling me to keep making the box and chances will drop.
"I’ll just continue to do that but it’s a pleasure to work alongside him and I’m really enjoying my football at the moment.
"He’s given me the belief. The main thing is, he’s believed in me as a player, I haven’t always had that in my career. It helps in my game sometimes if the manager puts his arm round me at times.
"At [Crystal Palace] I didn’t have that. I was kind of having to find it within myself and I wasn’t really showing the player that I am today. It’s down to him really, believing in me and giving me a chance."
Charlton's fantastic start
Charlton's fantastic start to the 2019/20 season was a point for discussion on the latest Sky Bet Championship podcast with special guest David Prutton.
"They've hit the ground running and there's a fearlessness to them that you've got to respect," ex-pro Prutton stated.
"Maybe, because of where they've been, subconsciously we're almost boxing them off as minnows.
"But let's be honest, we spoke about Alan Curbishley and what an absolutely established Premier League team this was. Yes, off the field stuff has gone on but that has been very quiet recently; obviously apart from what happened in the summer with Lee [Bowyer].
"Keeping it all very much on the pitch, they've got very confident players - [Lyle] Taylor stepping up and looking like he belongs at this level.
"The expectation levels of a team that have just been promoted is consolidation but on what we've seen so far, it's about maintaining momentum and having the squad depth for the games that come thick and fast in the Autumn.
"But at this moment in time, things look very, very rosey and I think what we've seen of Charlton over the past few years - they deserve their little time in the sunshine right now and people should rightly applaud what they do, although maybe not get carried away.
"If they do take a dip, let's not batter them for not being able to maintain that momentum when they've done so well."