In what was largely a pretty poor game played between two struggling sides, on a terrible pitch, in the driving rain, the Sky Blues came out on top against Sheffield Wednesday.
With the game failing to get into any kind of flow, Callum O’Hare produced a moment of quality around the hour mark to sear through the Sheffield Wednesday defence and play in Viktor Gyokeres to put the Sky Blues ahead. One or two iffy moments in defence aside, Coventry City saw out the win in fairly comfortable fashion, with O’Hare producing another assist, for Jamie Allen, to kill the game off in injury time.
What Formation Were We Playing?
There were about three or four different ways to interpret our starting line-up for this game. It was possible that Ben Sheaf was playing in defence to make it a 3-4-1-2, that Maxime Biamou and Viktor Gyokeres were being paired in attack to make it either a 4-4-2 or a diamond formation, or, as it transpired to be, something closer to a 4-3-3.
I say ‘closer to a 4-3-3’ as the line-up of the front three didn’t feel entirely orthodox. Callum O’Hare was on the right of the attack, and spent a lot of the game quite close to the touchline before occasionally drifting inside. Viktor Gyokeres was on the left, but had clearly been instructed to get close to the centre-forward, Maxime Biamou, as often as possible, which often made the shape look something closer to a lopsided 4-4-2 than a 4-3-3.
Without possession, the 4-3-3 (or 4-5-1) shape was clearer to see. Both Gyokeres and O’Hare dropped into wide their respective wide positions to help the team’s defensive shape. That said, Sheffield Wednesday threatened to cause us problems out wide due to our wide players tending to tuck inside slightly, leaving space for their full-backs to get forward.
Delving deeper into the defensive set-up, there was a seeming awkwardness at times with the back four shape. Ben Sheaf was caught in possession in front of the defence in the first-half and nearly punished for it. Most notably, Leo Ostigard and Dominic Hyam made a hash of a long ball over the top in the second-half that could have seen the latter sent off for a professional foul. Both of these moments may have been avoided with the assurance of an additional centre-back.
Despite the result, it was hard to argue that it was a particularly successful experiment with a new formation. With Kyle McFadzean returning from suspension, it feels more likely than not that Mark Robins will return to something more familiar moving forward.
A Lack of Attacking Impetus
Continuing the trend from the past month or so, it was hard to see where the goals were going to come from with this Sky Blues side. For much of the game, the team looked bereft not only of an element of confidence going forward but any ideas as to how they were going to score from open play. Our biggest threat for much of this game came from set-pieces and occasionally winning the ball high up the pitch.
The front three struggled for much of the game to either hold the ball up or get in behind the opposition defence, when they did, there was little support from players around them. They were backed up by a midfield trio where Gustavo Hamer was pretty much the only goal threat, while Fankaty Dabo and Sam McCallum had to play on a leash because they playing as full-backs, rather than wing-backs.
If there was a moment to sum up our attacking play for much of the game, it was Viktor Gyokeres being played in on goal early in the second-half and taking a couple of touches to allow the attack to dissipate. More than the set-up and personnel on the pitch, it belied that the biggest issue this team currently faces is a level of decisiveness in the final third.
It may ultimately come down to this team not possessing the attacking players to be a reliable attacking force at this level, however, self-belief goes a long way and it has been lacking in our forward play for long spells of this season. The hope is that getting the win here helps build the confidence of the players to become more decisive as an attacking unit, it may take more than one win to do so.
The Real O’Hare Stands Up?
Callum O’Hare produced his first assists for the club in just under a year to help win the game for the Sky Blues. There is a lot to like about the former Aston Villa youngster but his lack of end product has become an increasing source of frustration over the course of the season.
In getting those assists, Callum O’Hare demonstrated the player he is capable of being. O’Hare sacrificed little of his typical energy levels and ability to win soft free-kicks in order to produce those moments of decisive quality. Adding a final product to that sheer nuisance factor makes him as important for the team with the ball as he is without it.
In a game lacking inspiration from either team, played on a terrible pitch, in the pouring rain, that combination of relentlessness and quality is what gradually turned the game in our favour. The assist for the first goal was particularly important, but O’Hare’s desire to get in the faces of Sheffield Wednesday’s defence and midfield made it difficult for them to get back into the game.
With that final product, this was the Callum O’Hare that so many Coventry City fans were excited about last season. It’s rare to see a creative attacking midfielder play with such commitment without the ball – which has perhaps been to his detriment at times – and we saw in this game how O’Hare’s combination of talents can make him such an electrifying presence in attack. Now it’s about reproducing that end product on a more consistent basis.