Cardiff City 3-1 Coventry City
The line-up was the same as the team that faced Watford. You can read that analysis here, and you'll see that the success that Coventry experienced came from the Watford shape and affording Coventry the desired control in the midfield.
Immediately, you could see that Cardiff would not allow Coventry space. Their shape would be more 5-2-3 defensively, and McCarthy has them well drilled to be behind the ball. The wingbacks would be tracked, meaning Coventry would need to manipulate the spaces to have any success. Any pass that went straight was easily read as Cardiff would shift and block Coventry out. Here you can see James on the ball, with nowhere to go.
There were several moments when possession was with the outside center back, as in the image below. This moment is significant because O'Hare' was in the keyspace he occupies and builds attacks from, yet the right-footed Hyam cannot find him. This was also important because it was in transition, hence the space for O'Hare and also Hamer, with only 3 covering the Cardiff back 5.
With Hyam forced inside (above) the ball cycles out to Hamer who is then dispossessed by the backtracking Murphy. You can see that Hamer had nothing ahead of the ball. DaCosta, Biamou, and O'Hare were all man-marked. The resulting tackle leads to the breakaway and goal for Moore.
Even after the goal, Coventry gets back on the ball and faces the same problem:
The formation seemed to be neither here nor there. Coventry struggled to get anything going when organized in the attack, but when they counter-pressed and got forward, they had this to try and score from. As you can see, Hamer has nothing but a double-marked Biamou, running away. No blame on Biamou, but Coventry organization for the game was stifled by Cardiff.
So, it's 1-0. The first half is winding down. It's been frustrating, but changes could be made. Now Walker is fit you could argue a shift to a matching 3-4-1-2 shape could have worked. Maybe even a 3-4-3 to pin Cardiff deeper and allow Coventry to possess further into the Cardiff half. At half time Coventry had 64% of possession. An element of control was there.
Goal two and three came either side of half-time. Matt Trutwein said in his preview that Coventry struggled against clever teams, with experience. These two goals highlight this very statement. A long throw-in with an overload of players just stood at the back and then a quick free-kick in behind Coventry. Any plans before or after half-time are completely upended. The late second goal likely messed up the half time plans, but I would have thought it would amplify the need for a change. Last week changes were made. This week none were made, which is incredibly frustrating.
O'Hare Flashes of creativity came, unfortunately at 3-0. Sky Blue Extra LIVE discussed why Coventry started to play once they were 3-0 down, but I don't see it that way. Coventry had continued to try and play, but with limited success throughout, but as Cardiff dropped deeper and gave Coventry more space to play, we saw more 'success'. Remember, all Cardiff had to do was prevent Coventry from scoring. The damage was already done at 3-0.
If you read my formation game article, based on a previous Coventry game, you would have seen some opportunities in this game to capitalize. The idea is to find areas and overloads to dominate. Here you see that happening, with Hamer dropping to receive the ball. The midfield presses on him because he is a creative threat and needs to be stopped. It creates space for O'Hare to play between the lines. This was the upswing in the Coventry game as they began to probe and ask more questions of Cardiff.
The blunt Coventry attack is what makes the result the most frustrating, after accepting that we gave away two goals, like the quick freekick you see here for the third goal.
Coventry had 21 shots on goal. Every player, except Allen and Marosi, took a shot. O'Hare took 5. Hamer took 3. Ostigard rattled the bar from the same position he has won headers in every game this season.
15 of the 21 shots came in the second half. I shared that Cardiff simply had to stop Coventry scoring, and they did. Or more like Coventry stopped themselves. 7 of the 15 shots were blocked, but only 5 of them were on target. One third.
Marosi made some very questionable decisions from him in this game. The second goal is a real issue. There were other moments of hesitation that were ultimately moot points, but I'm not sure if you drop him now. Wilson could arguably be given the starting spot back now he is back from COVID absence. Hamer was muted due to the shape and lack of space to get on the ball. He was more impactful from deeper, and given the scoreline, taking him off early would make sense given the coming run of tough games, but the moment he is off the pace and out of the game, you can really notice how valuable he is.
McCallum will be missing versus Norwich and was outshone in attack again by DaCosta on the right, but both received good ratings for their performances.
The census is that Coventry should have enough to stay up, but most performances are impacted by the same thing. Goals. Giving away cheap goals, and missing our own goals. Moore scored a good goal. He sent Ostigard flying with a cutback and scored comfortably. Should he be scoring when Coventry are so organized? Judge for yourself, below.