Let’s face it, the results over the past ten games are pretty worrying. That combined with this being Coventry City and Tony ‘my Middlesbrough team were top at Christmas’ Mowbray being in charge has set the nerves a jangling. It feels like the part in Romeo and Juliet when Romeo buys that poison and we all know what unfortunate thing is going to happen next.
This isn’t a tragedy though, there is no script to this season, we are in charge of our own destiny. The way we’ve dropped points over the past few months is infuriating, especially considering the talent we have in this squad and the time limit on this side staying together. To let promotion slip away in this manner would be unforgivable.
Yet it’s January, we’re just six points off the top and there are plenty of games still to play. Nothing has been decided yet so we can use this poor run of form to analyse where things aren’t going right and make ourselves a much more effective team than we have been of late.
The Defence – Fair enough, losing Reda Johnson and then losing his replacement Ben Turner, as well as Aaron Martin, is going to be a blow for any side, but they’re not coming back and we have to make best of what we’ve got to give ourselves any chance for the rest of the season. The current state of play is that we have a makeshift defence made up of either slow or inexperienced players with an out-of-form captain who is struggling at both full-back and centre-back. It’s not just that we’re liable to random defensive mistakes occurring but losing that sense of security puts pressure on the side in possession thus further increasing the chance of mistakes happening. We’ve either got to adapt or make wholesale changes at the back.
Reliance on Individuals – The absence of Jacob Murphy and Adam Armstrong for the Southend game was unfortunate and we know that even if nothing changes for next week, we’ll have a better chance of winning with those two in the team. With James Maddison strangely not picked from the start too, we were left without the three players responsible for the majority of our goals this season between them. That’s a big blow but it feels like we’re not set up to absorb that kind of blow in the way we create chances, with very few other players in this team looking like they’re on the pitch to get on the end of chances. Although stats have shown that we’ve had the most shots on target out of any team in England this season, a lot of our chances are from moments of individual brilliance rather than incisive passing moves. It’s something we’ve largely got away with for much of the season but when it doesn’t work out, we’re easy to defend against which further puts pressure on our defence to keep things tight.
Inconsistency of Selection – Tony Mowbray has big questions to answer as to why he doesn’t simply pick the strongest team for each game. There is the argument that it keeps players fresh and that the same team won’t necessarily work for every game but of late, it feels like the benefit of having supposedly fitter players is outweighed by a lack of cohesiveness. Not being a professional footballer I can only speculate, but I would say that feeling confident and in-form can overcome the physical impact of fatigue. Additionally, I’m not sure we currently have the strength in depth to justify leaving out the key players in this side. Either stick with a team or make sure that those coming in and out of the side can make an impact.
Play To Our Strengths – This side is built to play free-flowing attacking football, we have seen at times this season that we simply don’t have the players to shut up shop and squeeze out narrow wins. I’m not sure that finding a ‘plan B’ is really going to work as well as I’ve seen fellow supporters cry out for. Plan A may not be working in its current guise but it is a formula that got us into this excellent position and shouldn’t be abandoned wholesale after a few bad results. We need to do the things we’ve been good at this season with a greater intensity and show no mercy to sides. If this season is going to fall apart, I would prefer to do so all guns blazing with the likes of Murphy, Maddison and Armstrong allowed to show what they can do rather than try unsuccessfully to squeeze out 1-0 wins.
Find Some Consistency – Whether Tony Mowbray settles on a starting 11 or not, this side has to figure out a way to put together a long run of wins. Both in games and over sequences of games, we’ve dropped points because we’ve not taken advantage of our best spells. There are going to be bad refereeing calls, unfortunate defensive mistakes, outright cheating from the opposition but more often than not, we have enough chances in games to render those moments academic. We’ve got to have more moments like that 12-minute spell against Gillingham where we found a team’s weakness and milked it for everything. This team is good enough to not need luck to fall in its favour, we just have to be more efficient in our efforts.
Make The Right Signings – The transfer window is open right now and most Cov fans are desperate to see the club sign some exciting new players, so am I. The trouble is, as we saw under Pressley, that you can confuse the need to make necessary improvements to your squad with signing anyone that comes your way. We have a very good side here already and we can afford to be a bit picky with who we bring in. One or two good signings right now are likely to be the difference between success and failure this season. Recent results should have given Tony Mowbray a pretty good idea of what this team needs. I’m willing to be patient rather than being frustrated that we don’t sign another random Dutch winger.
Nothing’s Decided Yet
Just a reminder, it’s January and we’re only six points off first place. That’s not to say that this recent run isn’t a big concern but that there is plenty of time to sort things out and still win automatic promotion. We can’t just continue to do things as we have been doing over the past few months but panicking right now is likely to undo all the good work that has happened prior to this run which has put us in such a good position.
As the other results on Saturday showed, teams currently above us will drop stupid points between now and the end of the season. A two-game losing streak in the grander scheme of a full league season is nothing really. It’s not great that we were also dropping silly points beforehand which is why there is pressure on this side now to put together a winning run. This run has to be viewed as an opportunity for Tony Mowbray to sort out flaws in the side that were less apparent when we were doing well earlier on in the season.
If we can get our house in order, there’s absolutely nothing stopping us winning this league. This is a talented squad in an ordinary division, we are good enough to win this. Nothing’s decided yet, there’s still time for Juliet to wake up and stop Romeo drinking the poison.