Preview: Swansea City

Just how significant a victory as was Saturday’s against Hull City will become apparent over the games and weeks to come. A first win in three games and a first away win since August, it may prove to be a case of the result taking precedence over the performance. With two home games to come this week, the task for Mark Robins and the team is to take the confidence boost of that win and translate it into a performance that is of a standard closer to the ones seen earlier in the campaign.

This meeting with an in-form Swansea City side is a clash with a team that would be more than happy to overtake the Sky Blues if performances and results continue to be mediocre. The Swans are a team that will look to hoard possession, making this a similar, but tougher, challenge than the last recent Derby County game where Mark Robins’ side struggled to control proceedings. This is one of the toughest home games of the season so far.

Expected Line-Up

Possible Line-Up (3-4-1-2): Moore; Hyam, McFadzean, Clarke-Salter; Dabo, Hamer, Kelly, Maatsen; O'Hare; Godden, Gyokeres.
Possible Line-Up

Having stuck with the same starting XI for two games in a row, it is an indication that Mark Robins currently sees the players in possession of a starting place as his strongest team. However, with this fixture part of a three-game week and the opposition posing some specific challenges, there may be one or two adjustments to take account of those two things.

Mark Robins may opt to bring in an extra man in midfield to help the Sky Blues out in their battle for possession with Swansea City. However, that would most likely involve the manager making a bold decision in dropping either Viktor Gyokeres or Matt Godden from the attack, or even taking Callum O’Hare out in favour of a more defensive midfield option. As such, the manager may end up sticking with the current attacking line-up, hoping it will aid efforts to press Swansea.

If it is a two-man midfield, there is a debate as to whether Ben Sheaf and Gustavo Hamer are the best combination right now. Having started the season well, both looked a little out of form against Hull City, which may lead Mark Robins into bringing in Liam Kelly to help steer either Sheaf or, most likely, Hamer through a potentially tough game for a central midfielder to look to play themselves back in form.

Last Time We Met

There wasn’t much between the Sky Blues and Swansea City when they met back in February, but the Swans were the better side and deserved the victory. In a game of few chances, a Ben Cabango header from a corner just after half-time was enough to keep allow a confident Swansea City defence to hold an impotent Coventry City attack at arm’s length for the rest of the game.

The Opposition

The Manager – Russell Martin

Despite finishing in the top six two seasons in a row, Russell Martin’s predecessor at Swansea City, Steve Cooper, struggled to win fans over due to a pragmatic, cautious style of play. Former Milton Keynes Dons manager, Russell Martin, has made himself popular since taking over at the club over the summer by implementing the kind of possession-centric football that was once synonymous with Swansea City.

While Martin’s football can be criticised at times for being possession for possession’s sake, his teams can be highly frustrating to play against when on top form as they deny the opposition any hope of doing anything in the game due to their dominance of the ball. After a rocky start where the team ran into teething issues with Russell Martin’s style of play, Swansea’s players look to have really bought into what the manager is trying to do and that is being reflected in recent results.

Who To Look Out For?

Possible Line-Up (3-4-2-1): Hamer; Bennett, Naughton, Manning; Laird, Downes, Grimes, Bidwell; Paterson, Ntcham; Piroe.
Possible Line-Up

The key hub of this Swansea City side is the defence and central midfield, as they are the players who set the tempo in Russell Martin’s brand of football. With a central defensive three likely to feature two non-physically pre-possessing players who have typically played at full-back in their careers – Kyle Naughton and Ryan Manning – it underlines the manager’s willingness to think outside conventional wisdom to enact his style.

In central midfield, Matt Grimes is the key orchestrator and is, along with the central defenders, the player likely to have the most touches on the ball in this game. Alongside him is likely to be former Ipswich Town starlet, Flynn Downes, who is not only a capable ball-player but has a level of niggle about him that helps Swansea win the ball back in the middle of the pitch. Former Sky Blues hero, Liam Walsh, is unlikely to feature in this game due to fitness issues that date back to his time at Coventry City.

Wing-backs, Ethan Laird and Jake Bidwell, are then useful options for the team in providing the width and penning opponents back in their own half. Manchester United loanee, Laird’s, pace and skill on the right is especially useful in stretching teams, while Bidwell on the left has a handy habit of getting into the opposition penalty area and popping up with the odd goal.

Aiding Russell Martin’s revolution at Swansea City is the ability of the team’s three attacking players, Olivier Ntcham, Jamie Paterson and Joel Piroe, to create and convert chances. Former Celtic midfielder, Ntcham, is a physically well-built attacking midfield player who can glide with the ball at his feet, adding an element of unpredictability to Swansea’s build-up play. Paterson, a Coventry City fan, possesses good movement and technique in the final third to get into scoring positions and produce either goals or assists. Piroe’s willingness to get shots away adds a further level of threat to Swansea’s patient style of football.

Where The Game Will Be Won Or Lost

As mentioned earlier, this game is set to be a similar, and tougher, challenge to the one the team faced against Derby County in the last home game. Mark Robins is likely to have to try something different with his team selection and tactics in order to deal with the opposition having the majority of the ball.

As improved as Swansea City have been recently, they haven’t quite had the total control that Russell Martin is looking for. The Swans have struggled in particular against teams that press them high, exploiting the fact that they don’t have a goalkeeper who is comfortable with the ball at their feet. While the Sky Blues have been at their best this season when pressing high, it’s going to require greater energy levels than what has recently been in evidence, as well as Mark Robins taking the risk of instructing his wing-backs to push high to support the press.

The key narrative in this game will be whether Coventry City look to press Swansea City high and look to force errors or sit deep and hope to hit their opponents on the counter-attack. That is likely to be apparent in which team’s wing-backs can get highest up the pitch and force their opposite numbers back. If Fankaty Dabo and Ian Maatsen drop too deep in this game, it could make it very easy for Swansea to control possession, drag the Sky Blues around the pitch and create chances.

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