Seen as the future of our midfield upon arrival at the club over the summer, Ben Sheaf has struggled to command a regular starting place in the side. That is because as the defensive midfield anchor, there are players at the club who make fewer mistakes and offer more of a physical presence. Meanwhile, as a playmaker, there are players at the club who provide more penetrative passing. It’s not that Ben Sheaf is a bad player, it’s just that his problem right now is that he is part of a squad where there are players who can do what he does more reliably and without the costly errors that have dogged his time at the club.
Leaving aside those mistakes, there have been signs of the player that Ben Sheaf might one day be. Primarily, it is Sheaf’s passing ability and desire to keep possession that potentially makes him a player who could take this team to the next level, one that can dominate possession and break through deep-lying defensive blocks. It is the defensive side of the game that Sheaf needs to improve if he wants to command a place in the side. While he has made a few mistakes as a result of dallying on the ball, it is how easily he can be outmuscled by opponents and the sense that he doesn’t perceive danger particularly well that makes him such a risk to play as the team’s sole defensive midfielder. Sheaf’s overall game is characterised by a lack of aggression, which a team fighting for survival can ill-afford – especially for a player who offers little attacking threat.
At the moment, Ben Sheaf is a player that we could do without, which is not to say that there isn’t an argument for signing him on a permanent deal for next season. He is a young player in his first season in the Championship, there have been signs that, if he can eliminate the mistakes – as well as show more determination to stamp his mark on games – he could become a good player at this level. Sheaf probably needs to do more between now and the end of the season to make a more convincing argument for a permanent stay at Coventry City. Nonetheless, on current evidence, there are probably just about more reasons than not to keep him in the hope that he could soon develop into the player he is capable of being.