Coventry City came out with a point at St Andrew’s in a game of few clear-cut chances that either team will have felt that they could have won nonetheless.
After a big early chance for Birmingham City was spurned by Juninho Bacuna, Coventry City enjoyed the best of the first-half. Looking smart in possession and occasionally getting into good areas, all that was missing was a cool head in the final third that never arrived.
The second-half was largely Birmingham City’s, however, they also lacked that same cool head when it came to attacking play. In a game destined to end as a 0-0 draw, Gustavo Hamer saw himself sent-off late-on after getting into a tangle with Blues’ Hannibal Mejbri that threatened to provide the home side with the impetus to secure the three points in the closing minutes, yet the Sky Blues held firm.
Limited Ideas In Attack
Coventry City were the better team for long periods of the first-half, but didn’t really create much in terms of clear-cut chances. Beyond giving the ball to Viktor Gyokeres and Gustavo Hamer occasionally taking pot-shots, it was apparent for stretches of this contest that there was a lack of structure in the Sky Blues’ attacking play.
There seems to be a big emphasis at the moment for Coventry City’s star players to make big individual contributions because of that lack of structure in how the team looks to create chances. Too often, there is little movement around both the ball and the penalty area to open space that would creating chances easier. It seems like the team’s less talented players are a little too willing to allow their more talented counterparts to take up the mantle.
A big issue in this particular game was just how little both Jamie Allen and Matt Godden contributed to the team’s attacking play. While Allen at least made runs to get into dangerous positions, Godden was almost entirely peripheral to proceedings. This is exacerbated by how often Viktor Gyokeres pulls wide in order to find space, placing extra emphasis on the two other attacking players to create space for themselves in the penalty area. When they can’t, opportunities to get the ball into dangerous areas pass the team by and they are left hoping that Gyokeres can do it all on his own.
While there is always half a chance with Viktor Gyokeres that he can make something out of nothing happen, the only other route to goal was through Gustavo Hamer’s shooting. Given how slow and hesitant Coventry City can be in their attacking play, it shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a negative that Hamer seems to have become more willing to shoot recently. However, it means that the team is eschewing potential opportunities to create high quality chances in order to roll the dice for an occasional screamer.
Viktor Gyokeres and Gustavo Hamer may be very talented individual players, but they will not always be able to produce the goods for this team. It is not only a case of others around them stepping up but there being need for a clearer structure in how the team looks to build attacks. Individual players can be stopped, a well-drilled team-unit is much tougher to deal with.
If You Can’t Win…
After a first clean sheet in ten games, to have gone without conceding should be seen as a step in the right direction for Coventry City. Although it took Birmingham City missing at least two big chances in order to keep that landmark clean sheet, it was a relatively serene defensive performance otherwise.
Add Gustavo Hamer’s late red card on top of that, this was a rare occasion this season where Coventry City’s defence didn’t buckle in the face of adversity. It may have been fairly scrappy, no-nonsense stuff at times, but Kyle McFadzean, Jonathan Panzo and Callum Doyle should take credit for resolute and disciplined defensive performance, aided by Ben Wilson producing a couple of excellent saves behind them.
The flip-side of that is what impact a sterner defensive display may have had on the team’s attacking play. Mark Robins may well feel that on another day, one of Gustavo Hamer’s shots might have gone in, or Viktor Gyokeres would have made something out of nothing happen. Importantly, the clean sheet meant that the Sky Blues at least had a chance of claiming a win here, and were then able to pick up a point when their attack was off-colour.
The task now is to replicate that defensive security over a longer stretch of games.
If That’s The Best Coventry City Have Got…
That this may have Coventry City’s best performance of the season has to be seen as somewhat concerning. It is now seven league games to the start the campaign without a win, leaving the team four points adrift at the bottom of the table and seven short of safety. If the best the Sky Blues can do is draw games, that won’t be good enough.
There might have been an improvement in defence over the past game and a bit, but the concern is if that has come at the cost of attacking threat. In the situation that Coventry City now find themselves in, they will need to string together wins at some stage and that may not be possible if the sole focus is on stopping the opposition.
The Sky Blues were on top of this game for much of the first-half and even had spells in the second-half where they had Birmingham City on the back-foot. That the dominance didn’t result in concerted pressure on the opposing goal has to be seen as a concern. This wasn’t a necessarily tough test for Coventry City and they came out of it almost fortunate that they didn’t lose.
The international break and the month that follows will almost certainly be decisive for Coventry City’s season. Results – and really, wins – are an absolute priority right now. This team cannot afford for those above them to get any further away from them. When this team attacks, they have to threaten the opposition. When they defend, they have to do so like their lives depend on it.
In isolation, this was an okay result and performance. In the context of Coventry City’s season, it was nowhere near good enough.