A disappointing result against Bradford City on opening day has continued the mood of negativity around the club for much of the summer. The club’s poor form from the end of last season is in danger of spilling into this season, Coventry City are now winless in eight games.
After losing the majority of the club’s goalscorers last season, the question is whether Steven Pressley has the ability to replace the quality that the club has lost over the past six months. Pressley’s top scoring signings for Coventry are Andy Webster, Nathan Delfouneso, Chris Maguire and now Reda Johnson who have two Sky Blues goals between them. With the club having recently released Danny Seaborne after signing him in January, there are massive question marks over Pressley’s ability to recruit players in the transfer market.
In particular focus is the club’s current crop of strikers, Marcus Tudgay, Josh McQuoid and Shaun Miller. Between them they scored six times in 47 league appearances which is not a particularly inspiring record. What’s more the three of them seem to lack both pace and height which makes it harder for the team to pose questions of the opposition. The recent rumours linking Michael Smith from Swindon with the club, although proven to be inaccurate, emphasise that we are still missing an extra element from our attacking options.
Looking through Steven Pressley’s record with strikers over his managerial career though should provide us Sky Blues fans with some optimism that our manager can get the best from our current strike-force.
Let’s start with last season’s starting crop of Leon Clarke, Callum Wilson and Mathieu Manset. In the season prior to last the trio managed a combined total of 21 goals in 50 league appearances, with Leon Clarke accounting for 19 of those goals. Over the course of last season they managed 41 in 93 which improves to 37 in 69 if only league appearances for Coventry City are considered. Put another way, in the previous season they had a combined record of 0.42 goals per game which increased to 0.54 goals per game whilst playing for the club the following season.
Individually, only Leon Clarke’s strike record decreased over the course of last season. He managed 0.7 goals per game in 2012/13, which goes down marginally to 0.65 before he left for Wolves last season. Callum Wilson’s record improved dramatically from 0.09 per game to 0.57, Mathieu Manset saw his ratio increase from 0.08 to 0.2.
The trend continues during Steven Pressley’s time at Falkirk. In his final season for the club (2012/13), his strike force managed a combined 40 goals in 115 games altogether, an improvement on eight goals in 93 appearances. In goals-to-games terms that’s an improvement from 0.09 goals per game to 0.35. Individually in that season every single player was more effective in front of goal compared to the previous season. Most marked was Lyle Taylor’s improvement from two goals in 26 appearances, mostly played at League Two level, to 29 goals in 34 league appearances.
Going back another season and there is another, albeit smaller, improvement in goals to games compared to the previous season. In 2011/12, Steven Pressley’s Falkirk strike-force managed 25 goals in 101 appearances, improving marginally on 17 goals in 28 appearances in the previous season.That constituted a tiny improvement in goals-to-games from 0.22 to 0.25. The star of that season was the previously unknown Farid El Alagui who top scored for Falkirk with 18 goals from 33 games.
Finally, in Steven Pressley’s first full season in charge of the Bairns, he also managed an overall improvement in goals-to-games from his strikeforce. His five strikers that season managed a combined total of 30 goals from 121 games, improving from 19 goals in 117, or from 0.16 goals per game to 0.25 goals. Noteworthy is the improvement of Mark Stewart in that season who went from two goals in 19 appearances in 2009/10 to 15 in 35 in the 2010/11 season. However two players, Kallum Higginbotham and Pedro Moutinho both saw their goal-scoring records decrease slightly over the course of that season.
Overall the trend is that Steven Pressley improves the efficiency of his strikers in front of goal. The average is an increase in average goals per game across the strikers of 0.13. If this were to continue, then our strikers should manage a combined ratio of around one goal every four games. That would be a decrease of around 50% of goals scored from strikers who began the season with the club from last season. This emphasises the need for a more proven and physical centre-forward as well as more goals from midfield and fewer goals conceded.
It’s clear then that the challenge for Steven Pressley is to get more from limited resources. We have to find a style of play that isn’t just a weaker version of last season but one that accommodates for the different talents of our new signings.