The Wrap: Blackpool – 1-0

Coventry City secured their first away win of the season with an energetic, exuberant performance at Bloomfield Road. Dominant for much of the game, the 1-0 final scoreline reflected poor finishing on the part of the Sky Blues

With the likes of Callum O’Hare, Gustavo Hamer and Viktor Gyokeres in full flow, Coventry City ran Blackpool’s defence ragged, especially in the opening stages of the game. After carving out and spurning some excellent opportunities in the first-half, any fears that the Sky Blues profligacy in front of goal would prove costly were allayed when Viktor Gyokeres scored on the stroke of half-time, with a goal that initially looked to be both offside and a handball.

There were opportunities to extend that lead early in the second-half, but the narrow scoreline meant that Coventry City had to dig-in during the closing stages in order to secure all three points.

The Real Gustavo Hamer Stands Up

Coventry City fans could be forgiven for wondering, prior to the start of this season, whether Gustavo Hamer’s excellent performances over the first two-thirds of the previous campaign were something of a mirage. Hamer’s excellent showing here at Bloomfield Road was a timely reminder that the player he looked to be for the majority of last season was a better reflection of his ability, than the tired showings he put in at the end of that campaign.

The passing and the brutality is a trademark of Gustavo Hamer, with the Dutchman utilising them in a controlled, aggressive manner in this game to dominate the centre of the park. A step or two ahead of everyone else on the Bloomfield Road turf, the Sky Blues marched to the beat of Gustavo Hamer’s drum for much of the 90 minutes.

Hamer exhibited the full range of his passing in this performance, spraying some sumptuous balls around the pitch that opened the play up for his team-mates. Most notably, this provided the opening for Fankaty Dabo on the right to put the cross in that Viktor Gyokeres eventually turned in for the game’s only goal. There were further delightful moments from Hamer on the ball that added pace and intent to the Sky Blues’ attacking play.

Without the ball, the mark against Hamer has always been a recklessness in the challenge, this time out, that extra step that Hamer had on the night saw him play on the right side of the thin white line that he operates on. There were a number of occasions where Hamer eased opponents off the ball, further helping the Sky Blues play at a furious tempo that looked too much for Blackpool for much of the opening hour of the game.

Whether Hamer has benefitted from a summer break or by having team-mates around him playing with the energy to supply him with viable options in possession, his performance in this game was a declaration of him being back to his best. If Hamer can sustain this kind of performance level, the Sky Blues should be in for an entertaining season of daring, enterprising football.

Big Vik Energy

After a late penalty miss last time out, it would have been easy for Viktor Gyokeres to retreat into his shell, instead, the Swede produced a dynamic, energetic and match-winning performance to immediately put any doubts against him to bed. There’s still areas of Gyokeres’ game that need a lot of work, but he demonstrated here that he has the mentality to succeed in football.

Most impressively, there was a relentlessness in Gyokeres’ performance that was vital both to the team’s impressive opening hour and to how they held onto the result in the closing stages. Whether it was competing for the ball in the air, running the channels or driving with the ball at his feet, Gyokeres never gave up in what he was trying to do, even if it didn’t always come off.

Former Coventry City defender, Richard Keogh, was given a torrid time by the Swede, who had his number for physicality, pace and skill. Gyokeres pinpointed Keogh as the weak spot in the Blackpool defence and repeatedly chose to isolate him. This led to a number of opportunities for Gyokeres to get in behind the Blackpool defence, which should have seen him add to the one goal he scored in this game.

Just why Viktor Gyokeres didn’t finish the game with more than one goal highlights where he needs to improve. While he has shown that he can be an excellent finisher when the ball sits up nicely for him, Gyokeres’ ability to carve out shooting opportunities leaves something to be desired. It was apparent in this game just how little Gyokeres trusts himself to take on shots with his left foot, which meant that he took extra touches in promising positions, allowing the optimal moment to shoot to pass him by.

For other players, wasting so many good opportunities would have been enough to allow their heads to drop, Viktor Gyokeres didn’t seem phased in the slightest. It further underlines Gyokeres’ defining quality of relentlessness, that ability to persevere regardless of how successful his actions have previously been.

In the end, Gyokeres was rewarded with a goal that had more than a hint of fortune about it, that is what can happen when a player refuses to give up.

A Lack Of Pace In Defence

For all the positivity about the manner in which the Sky Blues played in this game, there were further warning signs about the lack of pace in defence. The two goals the team has conceded in the league this season have both come from quick counter-attacks, which remained as a theme in this game.

Slotting Jake Clarke-Salter into the back three did little to address this area of weakness. The Chelsea loanee had a wobbly full debut for the club on the left of the defence, over-committing himself on a few occasions, which would have been punished with more composed finishing from Blackpool. However, it is early days for Clarke-Salter and it can’t have helped to have had such little time in training to prepare for this game after signing last Friday.

It looks to be a case of risk versus reward in how Mark Robins sets up the team. Playing high up the pitch was a key reason why Coventry City dominated much of the opening hour of the game, but it was also the period that presented Blackpool with many of their best opportunities, with the back three looking more than a little isolated once the Sky Blues lost the ball.

While there were a few hairy moments at the back in the closing stages of the game, playing deeper allowed the back three to defend in a more comfortable manner. However, that came at the cost of being able to control the game in possession and saw the team create very little.

For the team to succeed this season playing on the front foot, they are going to have to find ways to better deal with quick counter-attacks. It is going to take a combination of the back three avoiding committing themselves into challenges unless there is cover, as well as the players ahead of them playing a little more intelligently immediately after losing possession to break the play up.

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