It was another drab goalless draw for the Sky Blues, this time against Huddersfield Town.
Huddersfield threatened to spark the game into life in the first-half, not only through the attacking threat they posed but also because of their willingness to leave themselves open at the back. The Terriers really should have taken the lead in the opening 45 minutes through Isaac Mbenza, who somehow spurned a two-on-one situation, but they increasingly struggled to convert possession into chances as the game wore on.
In what was a largely lifeless attacking performance from the Sky Blues, Maxime Biamou came close to winning the game late-on, as he nearly diverted an excellent Fankaty Dabo cut-back across the goal-line. However, the draw was a fair result between the two sides.
Four Goals Conceded In Eight Games
On what was largely a forgettable evening for the Sky Blues, the ability to keep a clean sheet is a testament to how this side has progressed since the most recent international break. Having conceded an average of two goals a game, that has declined to 0.5. With three of those four goals having been penalties, we have conceded a remarkable one goal from open play over the past eight games – which would have been unthinkable a month ago.
There have been three key reasons why our solidity at the back has improved so markedly. First of all, we are facing less difficult opponents than earlier in the season. Secondly, our defenders have look to have adapted to the speed and skill of opposing attackers. Finally, we have sacrificed a level of attacking threat in order to improve our defensive solidity.
In this game, Mark Robins went for what was effectively a 3-5-1-1 formation, which left Tyler Walker very isolated in attack. From a defensive point of view, packing the midfield meant that Huddersfield Town were forced to look to wide areas to threaten our defence. While their right-back, Pipa, and wide forward, Isaac Mbenza, threatened to cause us problems, they were largely contained as a result of the traffic we created in the more dangerous areas of the pitch.
As we saw last season, if you don’t concede goals, you don’t have to produce dominant, scintillating football to win. Across these past eight games, we have struggled to sustain pressure on the opposition goal, but the defensive solidity has meant that we have picked up points at a rate to pull ourselves away from danger. With most Sky Blues fans content with simply surviving, what we’re doing currently is more than good enough to achieve our ambitions.
Lacking An Attacking Threat
As brilliant as it would be to survive in this division – and there’s a lot of work to do before we achieve that – the lack of attacking threat that we’ve had in order to start picking up results has made for some pretty turgid viewing.
While we were a whisker away from winning this game late-on after great work from Fankaty Dabo teed Maxime Biamou to go agonisingly close, we didn’t really do enough from an attacking perspective to win the game. Had Huddersfield converted one of the two excellent chances they had in the first-half, it’s hard to see how we would have been able to set about getting back in the game with the system we had set up with.
Mark Robins may be limited in his options at the moment, but playing Tyler Walker up front on his own with only Callum O’Hare for support is unlikely to be the solution to our current issues as an attacking unit. There was no lack of effort from the players selected in this game, it’s that they weren’t set-up in a system that enabled them to demonstrate their skills as attackers.
For now, defence-first is an acceptable approach given our status in this division and the fact that we’re in the midst of a hugely congested fixture list. Going forward, there needs to be a plan to build pressure on the opposition goal. It is likely to be something we will need at times this season. Even if it isn’t, we’re never going to feel like we belong in this division until we develop the confidence that we can take the game to teams.
Gustavo Hamer’s Absence Will Be A Blow
It’s becoming repetitive at this point, but Gustavo Hamer once again demonstrated that he is several cuts above the rest of this Coventry City side in this game.
Hamer was the one player in Sky Blue who took the game to Huddersfield Town. Whether it was winning the ball off the opposition, upping the tempo with his passing or getting forward to take shots, Hamer did just about everything to defibrillate a lifeless attacking performance.
He was also probably our best defender on the night too, most notably, when he covered for Kyle McFadzean after the skipper gave the ball away in a dangerous area in the second-half to almost send Huddersfield clean through on goal.
Another all-action display from Hamer underlined why he is going to be so costly an absence for the game against Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend. With the team already struggling for attacking verve with him in it, it’s hard to picture just how lifeless we are likely to be without him.
Ordinarily, a suspension for one player provides another the opportunity to step up and show what they can do in their stead. However, with Hamer such a crucial player for us both from an attacking and defensive perspective, it feels like losing two players, rather than one.