As expected, Coventry City lost heavily away at Bournemouth. More encouragingly, the Sky Blues applied themselves in the right manner, occasionally troubling a Bournemouth side that were simply impossible to contain.
After getting off to the worst possible start, with Bournemouth scoring from a swift break within the first minute of the game, the Sky Blues were level from their next attack, with Matty James scoring from a free-kick.
A bright spell following that goal suggested that maybe this Coventry City side could battle their way to a decent result, but Bournemouth regained their lead thanks to Arnaut Danjuma finishing through Marko Marosi’s legs and there was little threat of the momentum then reversing.
Bournemouth rounded off their win with two more goals in the second-half, making it a comfortable afternoon for the Cherries but one that the Sky Blues can take a quantum of encouragement from.
The Right Idea Against The Wrong Team
Too often this season, this Coventry City side has approached games against the better teams in this division – as well as lot of the average and mediocre teams – with too negative a mentality. We have been timid in committing players forward, invited pressure and lost points wondering whether we could have done more. The one thing you can say about this performance is that the players gave it their best shot.
Conceding within the first minute could have been enough to write this game off entirely. Instead, the Sky Blues attempted to press Bournemouth with our front three, move the ball forward swiftly and commit players forward.
Matty James scoring a free-kick from our first attack after falling behind helped settle the team into the game. From that point, the Sky Blues fashioned a few decent chances to take the lead, looking like a side that believed they could get a positive result from this game.
Would it have been a different game had we scored before Bournemouth regained the lead? Probably not, because Bournemouth simply had too much individual quality for our defence to contain.
Although three of the four goals we conceded came from being caught up the pitch, even when we doubled-up on players such as Arnaut Danjuma and David Brooks, it looked a complete mismatch. It was clear that even a low-block, defensive approach wouldn’t have worked for us in this game as Bournemouth would have had the ability to break through our defence.
When there was most likely nothing that we could have done to change the final result, it was at least encouraging to see the team adopt a positive mentality. It is likely to be good practice for the games to come to know that we can cause even one of the better teams in this division a few problems if we play with more aggression and proactiveness than we have typically done for much of the season.
Could We Have Been Smarter?
Gulf in quality aside, there were one or two aspects of this game where Mark Robins’ judgement can possibly be questioned.
The first is the decision to start Matt Godden so soon after a long spell out injured, in a game where he’d have to expend a lot of energy and with such an important game lying in wait on Thursday night. Ultimately, this is something that the manager and player are in a much better place to assess than us fans watching the game from a distance.
The bigger judgement call was that taken to switch Josh Pask from the left to the right side of our back three. It left a player with little experience of Championship football often in one-against-one situations against one of the best players at this level in Arnaut Danjuma. Predictably, Pask struggled in his individual battle with the Dutch winger.
There was some logic to the decision. Pask is the quickest defender that we have and could have helped cover Eccles at right wing-back against Danjuma. However, Bournemouth played Danjuma in such a high position that he rarely came up against our wing-back. In addition, Pask wasn’t quite quick enough to get ahead of Danjuma and possibly wasn’t quite smart enough with his positioning either to prevent Bournemouth’s winger from getting the run on him.
Leo Ostigard might have fared better against Danjuma, however, the Norwegian defender has also struggled in one-against-one situations against pace this season. Furthermore, if Pask had played on the left, he would have been up against another dangerous attacking player in David Brooks. It highlights the difficulty Mark Robins faced in this game in that there probably wasn’t a defence he could have picked that could have kept Bournemouth quiet.
Away from the general approach, the biggest positive to come from this game was another bright performance from Josh Eccles.
Although the academy midfielder didn’t look the strongest defensively – his lack of physicality is probably his biggest issue as a defender – he, along with Matty James, were smart and calm on the ball in the rare moments of the game when we were in possession. Most notably, Eccles played a lovely reverse pass to Tyler Walker in the first-half that could have put the team ahead.
Having looked reasonably comfortable against a Bristol City side that made almost no attempt to test his defensive ability, this game was a better indication of what Eccles is capable of at right wing-back at Championship level. He’s not the strongest defender, nor is he lightning quick, but he’s someone who will put an effort in without the ball, while then making himself available in possession and being able to carve out openings by using the ball well.
In the absence of a fit or trusted option at right wing-back currently, Eccles looks a more than adequate stand-in. With Fankaty Dabo reportedly set to return to the team within the next week or two, it is unlikely to be a role Eccles will have to play much more, but it’s going to serve him well knowing that he can be effective and comfortable at Championship level.