Cov clinging on down the home straight - Interview
Thursday, 1st Apr 2021 16:44 by Clive Whittingham
Luton and Barnsley have shown what is possible if you can come up and survive the first season, if Coventry are to do the same it's going to be more due to inadequcies in other teams than anything they're doing well according to Dominic Jerams from the Sideways Sammy blog.
How has Coventry's first season back at this level gone overall?
Overall, to be out of the bottom three currently is respectable given our relative budget in this division and lack of Championship experience. However, we’re about to hit a key phase of the campaign and it feels as if the team is lacking momentum and confidence, which could see us slide into danger.
It’s been a campaign characterised by the need to cover our defensive deficiencies with a cautious style of football. It was necessary after conceding at a rate of two a game before the November international break, but, for the most part, it hasn’t been fun watching this team approach games so passively. It’s felt like we’ve let quite a lot of points slip away from us by not attempting to impose ourselves and waiting until we fall behind before attempting to force the issue.
If we stay up, sacrificing our style of play in favour of points will be seen as a necessary means to an end. If we go down, we’ll be left wondering whether we could have done more despite all of the limitations we’ve faced.
Coventry league results so far…
I'm often quite impressed with Cov when I watch you, the style of play and individuals like O'Hare, Hamer. What's prevented you from pulling properly clear of the drop zone?
There are two key reasons why we have remained around the bottom three for much of the season. The first is that we make too many errors at the back. The second is that we don’t score enough goals – mainly because we don’t create enough chances.
The problem that Mark Robins has faced is that any attempt to make a more proactive approach work has been stymied by defensive issues and that any attempt to shore up the defence has come at the cost of a creative threat.
It has put a lot of responsibility on Hamer and O’Hare, who are essentially our only creative outlets, both of whom are young players in their first full season in the Championship and haven’t been able to maintain their best form. Hamer has been a class act up until the past month or so, O’Hare is on a different trajectory but is still nowhere near the level to carry an entire team on his shoulders.
What's the general consensus on how Mark Robins is doing?
It’s pretty hard to question a manager who took the club from its lowest ebb four years ago when we were on our way to League Two – and probably worse – and turned it around in pretty short order. Yes, there are things Mark Robins has done this season that have been frustrating – not least the recent insistence on playing three defensive midfielders and one striker – but context is key and simply being in the Championship represents the remarkable turnaround we’ve experienced under his management.
Tell us about your January transfer business.
Much like a lot of things about this team currently, just how successful our January transfer business will be viewed will depend on how this season finishes.
The team desperately needed creativity and goals and, on the face of it, we allowed one of our biggest creative threats in Ryan Giles to leave the club and replaced him with a defensive midfielder in Matty James that we didn’t need and a striker in Viktor Gyokeres, who the manager doesn’t really seem to trust.
However, Giles was barely playing in the final couple of months of his loan spell and there are perhaps intangible things that James has brought in terms of leadership and composure that aren’t immediately obvious to someone watching their team on iFollow. Gyokeres will probably go down as a dud, but, with Tyler Walker and Matt Godden returning to fitness, he wasn’t necessarily a make-or-break signing.
Summer Ins >>> Gustavo Hamer, 23, CM, Zwolle (Holland), £1.35m >>> Tyler Walker, 23, CF, Forest, Undisclosed >>> Marcel Hilbner, 25, RW, Paderborn, Undisclosed >>> Julien Da Costa, 24, RB, Chamois Niort (France), Free >>> Callum O’Hare, 22, AM, Villa, Free >>> Ryan Giles, 20, LM, Wolves, Loan >>> Leo Ostigard, 20, CB, Brighton Loan >>> Sam McCallum, 20, LB, Norwich, Loan >>> Ben Sheaf, 22, DM, Arsenal, Loan
Summer Outs >>> Jordan Ponticelli, 21, CF, Wrexham, Undisclosed >>> Zain Westbrooke, 23, CM, Bristol Rovers, Undisclosed >>> Jak Hickman 21, RB, Bolton, Free >>> Callum Maycock, 22, DM, Solihul Moors, Free >>> Dexter Walters, 21, LM, Tamworth, Free >>> Bouwe Bosma, 24, DM, Released >>> Charlie Wakefield, 22, RB, Released >>> Junior Brown, 31, LB, Released >>> Reise Allassani, 24, AM, released >>> Jordy Hiwula, 25, CF, Released >>> Brandon Mason, 23, CB, St Mirren, Loan
Winter Ins >>> Josh Reid, 18, LB, Ross County, Undisclosed >>> Fabio Tavares, 20, CF, Rochdale, Undisclosed >>> Matty James, 29, CM, Leicester, Loan >>> Vikto Gyokeres, 22, CF, Brighton, Loan
Winter Outs >>> Marcel Hillsner, 26, MF, Oldham, Loan >>> Gervane Kastaneer, 24, CF, Hearts, Loan
Where is the team strong and weak?
It’s hard to identify too many strengths about a side that has won just two of its last 12 games, scoring eight goals in the process. There are aspirations to be a neat, possession-based side, but we’ve struggled to cope with teams that press us and haven’t been able to build an alternative style of play that accounts for not having the ball.
Along with Hamer and O’Hare, centre-back Leo Ostigard is the other bright spot of this team. His aerial ability, composure in possession and aggressive streak have stood out, even though he has been as guilty as any member of our back-line of some pretty glaring errors.
As for our weaknesses, there are almost too many to mention. From our pair of goalkeepers that are allergic to catching the ball, our addiction to giving penalties away, our refusal to pass or shoot in the final third, to our ability to miss big chances, we’ve got it all really.
Do you think you'll have enough to stay up? Consequences if you don't?
Returning to Coventry probably reduces the level of consequence to a potential relegation, but it would also reduce the feelgood factor and put pressure on the team to bounce-back while also getting used to playing at a new stadium for a lot of the players and recovering from relegation. Like any football team, staying up would be preferable to going down.
Links >>> Coventry City – Official Website >>> Coventry Telegraph – Local Press >>> Sky Blues Talk – Forum >>> Sky Blues Blog – Blog >>> Sideways Sammy – Blog >>> The Lonely Season – Blog >>> Sky Blues TV - Clasic Match Highlights
The Twitter/Instagram @loftforwords, @SideSammy
Pictures – Action Images
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