After a win and a performance against Bristol City that has changed the trajectory of our season, the challenge for this Coventry City side now is to maintain performance levels over the remaining seven games. If we can, that should be enough to keep us in this division.
The combination of our terrible away form and the strength of our upcoming opponents, Bournemouth, makes this a game few are expecting anything from. While there are more important games ahead, in a potentially tight relegation battle, a point from this game could be the difference. At the very least, if we can play well and make things difficult for Bournemouth, it should help keep the momentum from Monday’s win.
It would be a bold move from Mark Robins to make any changes after such a cohesive and successful performance, especially given how long it has taken us to find a combination of our players that works.
However, the most likely area of change may well be at right wing-back, after Josh Eccles was left to fill-in due to absences elsewhere in the side. As well as Eccles acquitted himself, he barely had to do any defending against a Bristol City side that attacked almost solely down the other wing. Bournemouth are much more likely to attack down his side of the pitch through one of the best players in the division, Arnaut Danjuma, which is a potential area of concern. If Dominic Hyam is fit, the sensible call is likely to be to take Eccles out of that unnatural position and move Josh Pask to right wing-back.
The other possible change may be to rest Matt Godden for this game, given the couple of signs in the Bristol City game that his injury issues may still be affecting him. With the pivotal Rotherham United game coming up next week, it would be pragmatic to avoid risking one of our most important players in a game we are unlikely to take anything from. Viktor Gyokeres scoring from the bench on Monday may ease any concerns Mark Robins may have over weakening our attacking threat by taking Godden out of the side.
Last Time We Met
Having had a few games to get used to the Championship, our meeting with Bournemouth back in October demonstrated just how big the gulf between ourselves and the highest standard in this division was. The Cherries were in complete control of the game from the first minute to the last, aided by scoring an early goal that meant we were always chasing the game.
Somehow, the Sky Blues ended the first-half level, after Ben Sheaf tripped over an errant leg in the Bournemouth penalty area to allow Matt Godden to score from the spot. Any hope of rallying from that equaliser were quickly put paid to when Dan Gosling suddenly turned into peak Frank Lampard, scoring two of the 12 goals he scored for Bournemouth to end the game as a contest.
Things went from bad to worse soon afterwards as Gustavo Hamer fell into a trap set by messrs Adam Smith and Steve Cook, pushing the latter right in front of the referee after a nasty, cynical challenge from the former on Fankaty Dabo to get himself sent off.
The Manager – Jonathan Woodgate
Appointed assistant manager just a week before the sacking of his predecessor, Jason Tindall, Jonathan Woodgate has been handed an unexpected opportunity to re-build his reputation as a manager. A disastrous spell at Middlesbrough last season in his first managerial role would have made it difficult for Woodgate to earn a job elsewhere, however, he has done a reasonable job in turning around an underperforming Bournemouth side in the few months he’s had in charge.
Without doing anything particularly remarkable, Woodgate has entrusted Bournemouth’s talented attacking players to put opponents to the sword, which has seen confidence grow and results improve. Seventh in the table after three wins in a row, Bournemouth look well-set to make the play-offs and potentially get back into the Premier League at the first time of asking.
Who To Look Out For
The attacking trio of Dominic Solanke, Arnaut Danjuma and Junior Stanislas have been in irresistible form lately. Danjuma in particular has been devastating after returning from injury, with the Dutchman’s skill, pace and eye for the spectacular marking him out as someone who should never have been playing at this level. Stanislas has, perhaps a little surprisingly, also looked a class act at Championship level, providing further attacking pace in wide areas. Solanke has been a little inconsistent in front of goal this season, but the striker’s combination of pace, strength and technical ability has knitted things together Bournemouth’s attack together quite nicely.
In midfield, the tigerish combination of Ben Pearson and Jefferson Lerma give Bournemouth a robustness in the centre of the pitch to go with the technical ability that the team, as well as Pearson and Lerma, possess in abundance. Additionally, the tall and elegant Philip Billing has been in good form under Jonathan Woodgate as the most advanced central midfielder, keeping David Brooks and Jack Wilshere on the bench.
At the back, key players from Bournemouth’s rise to the Premier League, Adam Smith and Steve Cook, remain important figures. Additionally, Asmir Begovic has been a revitalised presence in goal after a spell in the wilderness, pulling off some important saves to ensure that Bournemouth’s attacking players make the difference.
Where The Game Will Be Won Or Lost
The key area of concern is just how we defend in wide areas against Bournemouth’s dangerous wingers. On both sides of the pitch, there are concerns over the defensive ability of our wing-backs, which could well lead to the wide centre-backs being dragged over to help cover, creating space elsewhere for Bournemouth to exploit.
In addition, limiting the influence of Bournemouth’s midfield three of Jefferson Lerma, Ben Pearson and Philip Billing is going to be difficult, particularly in our current shape. Against Bristol City, the team was often split into three attackers and seven defenders, which allowed the opposition midfield time and space on the ball once they got past the press of our attacking players. While Bristol City lacked the quality to make that pay, Bournemouth are less likely to. Liam Kelly and Matty James will need to find a way to put pressure on the ball in midfield, without leaving space behind them.
Finally, we are likely to have a tougher time winning challenges and forcing errors from Bournemouth’s back four than we did Bristol City’s. Nonetheless, if we can play with the same energy and desire, that may be enough to create a few openings as well as relieve pressure on the defence.