The Sky Blues were picked off easily by an incisive, free-flowing Norwich City side at St Andrew’s to make it three defeats in four games.
After a fairly competitive opening period of the game, Norwich City punished some poor passing from Jamie Allen and Callum O’Hare to take the lead. The game’s winning goal was similarly the result of inaccuracy in possession, with Kyle McFadzean caught in possession to allow the ruthless Canaries clean through for a chance they wouldn’t miss.
A better second-half performance did little to quell the feeling that this Coventry City side lacks the wherewithal at either end of the pitch to make things difficult for the best teams in this division.
Know Your Limitations
The Sky Blues were caught between a few stools in the first-half, which ultimately cost the team the game.
Firstly, there seemed to be an intention to press Norwich City high up the pitch, attempting to force the errors at the back that they produced last time out against Stoke City. Tyler Walker and Callum O’Hare were supported in the press by the two wing-backs, as well as Jamie Allen and Gustavo Hamer from midfield. While this led to a few half-openings, it left a slow defensive unit high up the pitch – which Norwich exploited for both goals, as well as for a few chances before they took the lead.
In addition, the team initially seemed to be looking to play fairly direct into Tyler Walker in order to prevent Norwich causing us problems with their pressing game. When that didn’t work, we tried to move the ball through midfield but lacked the quality to control possession, let alone move the ball into dangerous areas. It was those attempts to be more intricate that contributed to the two goals we conceded and it made it a pretty easy evening for the league leaders.
It should be long past time that Mark Robins knows what this set of players is and isn’t capable of. Even if we are to accept that it would be very difficult for this team to beat one of the best in this division, covering some of our weaknesses and making the most of the few strengths that we have may not only help us pick up some valuable points over this difficult run of fixtures that we face but may help provide this team with the sense of purpose that we need to get wins in the must-win fixtures that we have beyond this run.
How Not To Use Kyle McFadzean
I never like to say that a player is and isn’t capable of playing in a division. While there are players who deserve to be playing at the highest-level possible based on talent alone, I believe that the majority of players can play at any level as long as they are used in the right way in the right system.
Which is a long-winded way of saying that even though I’m not a massive fan of Kyle McFadzean, I don’t believe he is incapable at Championship level. As we have seen in certain games this season, it comes down to playing him in the right way in the right system – which we didn’t do in this game.
Kyle McFadzean’s main strengths are his aerial ability and aggressive presence in defence. Kyle McFadzean’s main weaknesses are his lack of pace, poor use of the ball and a tendency to charge into challenges – all of which were exposed in this game.
Beyond that one big mistake he made at the end of the first-half that gave us little chance of getting back into the game, Norwich constantly got in behind him because the defence was playing too high up the pitch. When you add in his poor use of the ball for that costly mistake along with a penalty he nearly gave away in the first-half by barging a Norwich forward in the box for little reason, it was a disastrous showing from the captain.
Despite how exposed he looked against a strong Championship side, Kyle McFadzean has a role to play in keeping us up. Part of this team playing within its limitations is likely to involve defending a little deeper and adopting a more combative, battling approach, which is almost exactly what McFadzean is built for.
McFadzean might not remain a Championship player for much longer, but he could be an asset to this team at this level when used in the right way in the right system.
Too Little, Too Late
For the third game running, this team has produced a strong second-half performance after falling behind. While there is something to be said for causing teams trouble when you are in a losing position – which was something we didn’t do much earlier in the season – the issue is that this team is not good enough as a creative, attacking unit to consistently turn games around at this level.
For all the effort and urgency in the second-half, we didn’t do enough to work Tim Krul in the Norwich City goal. Maxime Biamou spent too much of the second-half drifting out wide, robbing us of a presence in the box. Callum O’Hare wasn’t precise enough with his final ball. Once Julien Dacosta went off, we lacked a natural outlet out wide. Our best chances of scoring came from Gustavo Hamer from just outside the area and set-pieces.
It’s unlikely that we are going to become a free-flowing, free-scoring team between now and the end of the season. It is essential that we both cut out the sloppiness at the back and show more aggression and intent in the final third if we are to make the most out of the options that we currently have. As should be obvious right now, we cannot afford to wait until we are almost completely out of games before produce our best football.