The big home win that Sky Blues fans have been waiting for this season came against opponents in Walsall who twice beat us in crushing circumstances earlier in the season, and with goals from two of their former strikers to rub salt into wound further. However, the 3-0 scoreline could easily have been extended further, highlighting how much more room for improvement there is for this side.
The Immutable Law
Whether it’s for or against your team, it always seems as if former players are more likely to score against their ex-clubs than against other teams. It probably owes more to confirmation bias than some weird mystic power, but Amadou Bakayoko’s performance against former employer, Walsall, in this game suggests that there is something more at play to ‘the immutable law of the ex’ than just pure superstition.
For the most part, Bakayoko has been a mediocre to poor since signing for us in the summer. A big striker who doesn’t use his physicality, a quick striker who doesn’t use his pace, a finisher who can’t finish. Just what he’s best at has been a mystery for much of his time at the club, this performance today showed what a good Amadou Bakayoko performance looks like.
Most notably, he played with an aggression that he has previously failed to demonstrate in a Sky Blue shirt. Bakayoko charged around the pitch, in the first-half especially, ploughing a furrow up front, won physical challenges and was an all-round menace to the Walsall back-line, capped off by heading in an accurate Dujon Sterling cross to open the scoring.
It was almost as if he had a point to prove…
As brilliant as it is to see a player raise their game to a level that hasn’t been seen before, Bakayoko has to set this outing as a reference point for future performances. If he was only upped his motivation, application, concentration or whatever it was that spurred him on here for one game against a former club, that is a little troubling. Doing this more consistently and becoming a good striker at this level will prove his doubters at Walsall wrong more decisively than just in this one-off game.
Room For Improvement
This was the first home win of the season by more than a single goal, but it is no exaggeration to suggest that it could have been so much more. The first half was a battle to impose ourselves upon a desperate Walsall side, the two goals established our dominance, killed Walsall’s spirit and made the second-half a one-way affair.
That we only scored one goal, from the spot, from then on was down to that continued Achilles Heel of ours, decision-making in the final third. Multiple opportunities were spurned as a result of either a poor choice in the final pass or a poor execution in the shot. It was tempting to imagine what some of the better Coventry City attackers in recent years would have been able to pull off against this Walsall side, this vintage of Sky Blue laboured to eke a third goal against a side that had surrendered the game with 45 minutes to go.
The hope is that this result, and scoreline, bolsters confidence going forward for individual players and for our style of play more generally. Discovering that there are rewards for playing on the front foot, breaking quickly and attacking the opposition area should make our players bolder in their decision-making in future games.
The Calm Head of Stockdale
By not being Lee Burge, Stockdale didn’t have a lot to do to win the hearts of most Sky Blues fans. By coming into the side for two of our easiest games of the season, Stockdale literally had little to do.
On pure technical terms, Stockdale did nothing in this game that Burge couldn’t do and has shown that he can do. We’ve seen Burge command his area with confidence, claim crosses and distribute effectively on many occasions, but perhaps just not quite on a consistent basis. Stockdale’s presence – perhaps more down to the perception of him than anything tangible – seemed to take the sting out of the game during the small periods where Walsall were starting to rally.
With Stockdale set to return to Birmingham City in the near future and is likely to be unaffordable for a permanent return, he is set to become the Eric Black, or the Daisy Buchanan, of Coventry City goalkeepers – someone for whom there is only good memories of, who we’ll pine over for years to come. Realistically, we are going to have to content ourselves with what we have in Burge, which is a solid League One keeper with the odd error in his game, rather believe that all our problems are going to be solved with this fantastic keeper we’ve had the faintest of glimpses of.