Coventry City’s unbeaten home record came to an end with a defeat to Swansea City that was more comprehensive than the 2-1 scoreline suggested.
Outclassed in the opening period of the game, the Sky Blues were two goals down before they could get going. First, Jamie Paterson fired the first shot of the game past Simon Moore, then a swift break down Coventry City’s left set up Joel Piroe to effectively seal the points from the away side.
While the Sky Blues grew into the game, they were unable to carve out quality chances in order to truly trouble Swansea’s sense of control. A Kyle McFadzean header from a corner to pull a goal back before half-time aside, there was little doubt that Coventry City were second-best here and there was little that could be done about it.
Beaten By A Better Team
While there is an aggrievement in some quarters as to the refereeing of this game, this is a defeat that is hard to be too angry about. Swansea City were clearly the superior team in just about every area, with the Sky Blues barely able to lay a glove on them. This was a defeat that owed less to Coventry City’s inadequacies and more to the away team’s quality.
The most notable thing about Swansea City was how well they kept the ball. They were willing to take the risk of playing in dangerous areas and inviting Coventry City’s press onto them, looking to find space behind that initial line of pressure in order to create chances. They deployed an interesting tactic of switching between a three and four at the back – with the left-sided centre-back, Ryan Manning, often moving to left-back – in order to make it difficult for the Sky Blues to co-ordinate their pressing game and create overloads further up the pitch.
This meant that Coventry City were left to scramble once the ball was played into their half of the pitch, providing Swansea with the time and space to carve out quality chances. A key theme of Swansea City’s attacking play was their ability to play their right wing-back, Ethan Laird, into the game by dropping balls in behind Ian Maatsen. Additionally, that control the away side had in their half of the pitch provided their attacking creative midfielders, Jamie Paterson and Olivier Ntcham, the ability to glide into dangerous areas.
As the game progressed, Swansea’s stranglehold of proceedings reduced but their defensive organisation left Coventry City with little chance of troubling the final outcome. While the Sky Blues had a few promising breaks in the second-half, Swansea quickly crowded the penalty area to ensure that it would be difficult for the home side to pick out a man in the box.
While there were maybe a few things that Mark Robins and the players could have done differently, the overriding feeling from this game was that Swansea City were clearly the better side and would have found a way to win regardless of what the Sky Blues did. This is a defeat that Coventry City just have to take on the chin and move on from.
Creativity In Short Supply
There was the opportunity in the second-half for Coventry City to get back into the game and, perhaps, turn it around completely. However, the Sky Blues had very little in the way of chances to show for the swing in the balance of play, due to poor decision-making. Part of it may be down to tactics and the set-up of the side, however, it seemed to be apparent that quite a few key players are simply out of form.
As well-organised as Swansea were defensively, Coventry City made it easy for them to get back in shape due to that lack of decisiveness. From Dabo’s inability to get crosses into the box, to O’Hare’s poor choices with the ball in promising situations, to the strikers taking too many touches when the ball broke to them in good areas. The Sky Blues look a team right now that have been struck by a bout of indecisiveness and there is only so in Mark Robins can do about it.
The manager made the choice later in this game to sacrifice a central midfielder in Jamie Allen in order to play another attacking creative player in Jodi Jones. This change didn’t really make a difference, partially because it left the team in a weird 3-2-1-2-2 shape and partially because Jones probably isn’t the calibre of player to be able to change a game at Championship level.
It has been a really promising start to the season because of players such as Gustavo Hamer, Viktor Gyokeres and Callum O’Hare proving themselves to be top-standard performers at this level when on form. Recent performances have declined because those players have dropped from a high standard and there simply isn’t the strength in depth to countenance changing things up.
It should be a priority in January to find options to find options to rotate from players like Hamer, Gyokeres and O’Hare, the reality may well be that this club does not have the funds to find quality back-up for key players. Any success this season is likely to rely upon a handful of key players maintaining possibly an unsustainable level of performances.
Best Midfield Found?
One of the conundrums of recent weeks has been finding Coventry City’s best central midfield partnership. Various combinations of Liam Kelly, Ben Sheaf, Gustavo Hamer and Jamie Allen have been tried, but none had really convinced as a partnership. If there is one positive to take from this game, it’s that Jamie Allen and Gustavo Hamer appeared to work as a duo in a way no other combination seems to.
Perhaps Jamie Allen was brought into the side for this specific game in order to support the team’s pressing game, which was apparent at times here. A key upshot of Allen’s inclusion was the impact it had on Gustavo Hamer’s performance. Alongside either Ben Sheaf or Liam Kelly, Hamer is tasked with playing the foraging, box-to-box role, alongside the energetic Allen, Hamer can drop deeper and act as the central pivot in the team’s build-up play.
Hamer really seems to relish that role where, despite playing deeper, he can be all-action in making key tackles and passes for the team. Furthermore, Jamie Allen’s willingness to make runs alongside and beyond the strikers adds to the team’s attacking threat, forcing opposing defences to be wary of an extra man in their penalty area.
The duo were key to the team’s second-half rally, winning their midfield battles and helping the side have a level of dominance that they didn’t have in the opening period of the game. While there is the issue that Hamer playing in a defensive role leaves him prone to among risky challenges, he played at a higher standard in this game than he has been recently. It appears that Jamie Allen brings the best out of Gustavo Hamer and that is something that should be maintained.