Where We Are
Following Monday’s disappointing performance against Oldham, Sky Blues fans are back in the position of analysing Brownian Motion style matrices to determine whether Coventry City are in fact safe for next season. It would seem like an unlikely scenario that would take us down to League Two but for many Coventry fans the disappointment is that in a season where we were challenging for the play-offs we now are having to rely on other teams to keep us in the division.
Perhaps there would be more optimism surrounding the club if the final two fixtures weren’t against the Champions elect Wolves and an away trip to Sheffield United. Given the nature of the past two performances there is little confidence that the team will be able to muster much in the way attacking threat to our final two opponents. We seem resigned and lifeless at the minute with a combination of loan players and those who will be out of contract in the summer.
What’s worse has been the lack of tactical nous from our manager Steven Pressley over the past few games. Following two narrow defeats where we caused our opponents problems with a 4-4-2 formation, we have been playing a poor interpretation of a diamond formation. The problem has not been the system in itself but the way its been played, a lack of off the ball movement and players like Jordan Willis and Carl Baker being played out of position to fit into the formation. Hopefully Pressley will realise that his dalliance with Andy Thorn’s favourite tactic has not paid off in any imaginable way and will put players back into their favoured positions.
The team news for tomorrow’s clash with this seasons’ League One Champions is that we’ll be without Franck Moussa, Carl Baker, Anton Robinson & Jordan Willis. Hopefully this will mean a return to a 4-4-2 formation with Adams starting in place of Jordan Willis and a combination of Mark Marshall and Dylan McGeouch on the wings. The situation would have been perfect for Louis Garner to make his first start for the club, the winger has been in excellent form for the under-21s but the news that he is to released may cause Pressley to save face and continue to leave him out of the reckoning.
Last Time We Met
The last time we played Wolves was in the midst of our best run of form of the season. Following victory over Sheffield United at Sixfields, the Sky Blues travelled to Molineux confident of their chances against Kenny Jackett’s side. After dominating the first-half but creating few chances, Coventry were caught cold after the break with Leigh Griffiths giving Wolves the lead. It looked set to stay that way until Aaron Phillips was introduced in place of Jordan Willis at right-back. A speculative effort from the diminutive right-back caught out Carl Ikeme in the Wolves goal and earned Coventry a fantastic point to maintain an unbeaten run.
How Are They Doing?
After struggling for form and a consistent line-up for the first-half of the season, things have clicked for Wolves since the turn of the year. After taking the controversial decision to cast off Leigh Griffiths, Kevin Doyle and Bjorn Sigurdarson, Kenny Jackett’s gamble on bringing in Nouha Dicko from Wigan and Leon Clarke from us has paid off. Whilst our former striker has only scored once in 11 appearances for Wolves, Dicko has scored 12 in 17 games to fire the club back into the Championship.
To talk of individuals though is to ignore the strength in depth that Wolves possess at this level. Quite frankly a second-string Wolves side would probably have won promotion as well. However their current starting line-up does have several stand-out individuals who should be able to make a big impact next season in the Championship.
James Henry, the former Reading and Millwall winger, has been reunited with Kenny Jackett this season and has been their key attacking player for much of the season. Henry is a player who may even be too good for the Championship having excelled at that level before and the fact that he finds himself in League One with Wolves speaks a lot about Steve Lomas’s disastrous reign at Millwall. He’s a real nuisance of a winger, fast, skilful and with excellent crossing ability he’ll cause Blair Adams no end of problems tomorrow afternoon.
On the other wing Wolves only have Bakary Sako, another player who could probably play in the Premier League given the chance. Sako can flit in and out of games but he’s another key source of goals and assists when the moment takes him. Also in midfield they’ll have Kevin McDonald who has been a class act since signing for Wolves from Sheffield United in August. Wolves’s strength in depth is so strong that they can leave Michael Jacobs, a former Northampton player, on the bench as an impact substitute.
The cornerstone to Wolves’s success this season has been a rock-solid defensive solidity that has seen the club concede only 30 in their 44 league games this season. Danny Batth and Richard Stearman have formed the platform for Wolves’s defence in the centre with a commanding partnership, they’ll have no problems adapting back to Championship football this season. Former journeyman loanee goalkeeper Carl Ikeme has finally taken command of the jersey this season and has seen off competition from Wayne Hennessey who is now playing Premier League football with Crystal Palace. Captain Sam Ricketts, who can play anywhere across the back 4, has also been a vital defensive leader at Wolves since signing from Bolton in the summer.
Just reading that assessment of the Wolves squad is a daunting prospect. Like I pointed out, it says a lot that this Wolves team has done without players like Jamie O’Hara, Stephen Ward and Kevin Doyle and still been able to comfortably win this division. Coventry cannot allow themselves to be awestruck by this Wolves side. They have at times looked fallible, conceding 4 at home to Rotherham, losing to Crawley earlier in the season as well as being very prone to lacklustre performances where they have won games due to good fortune, such as at Leyton Orient last week. It will be important for Coventry to take the chances to seize the game when the come. Whilst Wolves will relish the prospect of rubbing our faces in their success with a bumper away following at Sixfields, there’s also the chance that we can catch them cold by racing out of the blocks and grabbing an early goal or two.
What’s also important to remember is that there’s still the mathematical possibility of getting caught in a final day relegation scrap. We cannot approach this game like a bonus fixture like we did against Brentford. It’s been a brilliant season and it would be the best send off for the final home game of the campaign to restore some confidence and excitement like the team did on the first home game of the season.
Being a realist though I fully expect Coventry to roll out the red carpet for Wolves and give them a 4-0 win.