Coventry City limped to defeat at Swansea City in a performance that was severely lacking in intensity and quality.
A well-worked move saw Swansea take in the lead in the 12th, with the Welsh side not having to do much more to eventually win the game. With the Sky Blues struggling to get going, a 1-0 deficit looked an acceptable half-time outcome, only for Michael Obafemi to double the Swans’ advantage going into the break.
It was game over soon after, with Ben Sheaf playing a sloppy pass, that was punished by Obafemi to seal the three points for the home side. There were chances a plenty for Coventry City to salvage something from a miserable afternoon, but it was only a Gustavo Hamer effort that prevented the Sky Blues from drawing a blank.
Overcome By Passiveness
This was a game that Coventry City lost in the first-half with a disappointingly passive display. Perhaps Mark Robins had feared what might happen if the Sky Blues opened themselves up in an attempt to press Swansea City, but they showed their opposition too much respect in possession, allowing the home side to stroll through the opening 45 minutes.
It was a serene afternoon for Swansea, who were under little pressure to either create or defend their goal, other than when they elected to. It wasn’t just about Coventry City failing to trouble the Swans in the press, but also the number of sloppy touches and poor decisions made when they finally had the ball, which meant that the final result was in little trouble of changing as soon as Swansea took the lead in the 12th minutes.
A big issue in this game was, once again, Coventry City’s wing-backs sitting too deep when out of possession. It meant that the Sky Blues could only commit two or three bodies, at best, when looking to press Swansea City, with the home side easily able to play around those attempts to put them under pressure. Furthermore, it gave Jake Bidwell and Todd Kane a lot of work to do to support attacks when the team finally had the ball.
It is clearly a deliberate tactic from Mark Robins as it has persisted throughout this season, regardless of the personnel being played at wing-back. While it is part of a system that has seen Coventry City overachieve up to this point in the campaign, there have been a number of games, just like this one, where having those extra bodies a little further forward could have allowed the Sky Blues to offer more threat.
The wider issue in this game today was that Coventry City showed too little energy without the ball and too little quality with it. Maybe this was an area in which Callum O’Hare would have made a difference had he not been injured for this game (made worse by an anonymous display from Jamie Allen in O’Hare’s stead). Maybe this set of players is simply too fatigued to play in a high-energy manner at the moment. However, it felt like a few too many individuals lacked an intensity in their performance, which is disappointing given that this is the start of a potentially season-defining run of fixtures.
If Something’s Not Working…
Another source of frustration from this game was how long it took Mark Robins to make changes from the bench. It was close to beguiling just why it took 63 minutes and three goals conceded before the manager did anything to address the apparent issues with the starting XI that he had selected.
In the manager’s defence, look at the bench. With injuries to Dominic Hyam and Callum O’Hare adding to the already extensive list of Coventry City absentees, the six outfield options available to the manager included a left-back and central midfielder who have yet to make their league debuts, another, slightly less raw, youngster, Jodi Jones and Matt Godden, who are just back from injuries, and Martyn Waghorn. It is hard to make a case for any of those players being the silver bullet that many of a Sky Blue persuasion were hoping for.
Nonetheless, it felt a case of doing something being better than doing nothing. It was clear that the plan in this game was to sit off Swansea City, before countering quickly through Ian Maatsen and Viktor Gyokeres. As soon as Swansea took the lead, that strategy no longer applied and there weren’t the players on the pitch required to adopt a new one.
If it would have been extreme to have made a change before half-time, the break really should have been the juncture at which Mark Robins enacted the alteration to his game-plan. Instead, Coventry City started the second-half in the similar, sloppy, low-intensity, manner they had in the first-half, and ended up conceding a third goal, within three minutes of the re-start, that put paid to any hope of another great come-back.
While Mark Robins wasn’t blessed with incredible options from the bench in this game, this felt a classic example of the manager’s lack of proactiveness when it comes to substitutions. As ridiculous as it is to cast any criticism in the direction of the manager considering the bigger picture that he has operated under at this club, it is a frustration with Mark Robins that he can be so reluctant to change things from the bench.
Finishing The Difference
The story of this game is that all three of Swansea City’s shots on target went in, while only one of Coventry City’s four found the back of the net. While part of that is down to Swansea having taken the lead relatively early, the Sky Blues had enough chances to have made this a different result.
Spurning two golden opportunities, Viktor Gyokeres has to shoulder a lot of the responsibility for Coventry City’s failure to put Swansea City’s lead under any threat. As brilliant as the Swede has been for much of this season in leading the line, Gyokeres is far from a clinical finisher. Whether it’s a lack of composure or poor finishing technique, the striker has a habit of not connecting cleanly when given time and space to shoot, which is why he went scoreless in this game.
This game was yet another case study for Coventry City this season of the difference clinical finishing can make. Swansea City scored all three of the clear-cut chances they had in this game, the Sky Blues’ goal was only their third or fourth-best chance over the 90 minutes. What could have been a difficult afternoon for the Swans became a straightforward stroll to victory as a result.
In what was a pretty poor overall performance, Coventry City didn’t actually need to have played any better to have come away with a result. Sometimes football is about playing well and winning, a lot of the time it is about doing enough to grind out results. As brilliant as it is to be 11th in the table, the Sky Blues have had the opportunities to have more points on the board and not taken them. That is the frustration with this team at this moment in time, they are within grasping distance of something special and are unable to grasp it.