Coventry City 1-2 West Bromwich Albion
A fast and frantic start to a derby game leaves Coventry unorganized. An opening half that Coventry will not want to repeat paves the way for a difficult and ultimately impossible comeback.
Coventry's shape was typical, but the personnel were not. With Dabo at RCB the same performance was expected, given his poor showing versus Bournemouth. It's more that he's not the player to put at RCB than he's a bad player.
With Gyokeres and Godden together up front and O'Hare behind, balls into the channel were expected and on 9 minutes this is what we saw. Maatsen receive the ball from a quick McFadzean switch and Gyokeres takes off. Though Gyokeres is tackled, the ball finds Hamer and after an exciting combination with O'Hare is dispossessed before getting a shot away.
However, with West Brom set in a 1-3-4-2-1 it meant they could have the box midfield to overload Coventry, who were one short centrally with two strikers.
Diangana and Grant would drop into the midfield, leaving Robinson ahead of the ball, but creating the overload on Coventry. Here, Sheaf wins the ball but is forced backward with no players ahead of the ball able to receive it.
Coventry really struggled to get into the final third against a compact WBA team. At half time Coventry had 61% of possession, but had only attempted 1/5th of all passes in the final third. The game was overwhelmingly played short and into feet for Coventry, and WBA just blocked Coventry out.
City lost the ball 10 times in the first half. 5 more times they were tackled and lost possession. Part of the reason for the loss of possession came from longer balls to avoid the press of WBA. Ahead of the ball, O'Hare, Godden, and Gyokeres are running for a ball from Kane, but Bartley covers across and deals with any threat. Note the holding midfielder pair of Gardner-Hickman and Mowatt providing cover against a long ball with no other Coventry player in sight. Unfortunately, the early successful passes into the channel for Gyokeres dried up as the ball went longer and more predictable in the air.
Coventry could have conceded several times before they did, due in part to Dabo and Sheaf taking it in turns to give the ball away. However, the goal did come from a simple flick on from a Johnstone kick that found Robinson. He held off Rose and turned to play a pass that cuts right between McFadzean and Dabo. Here is where the inexperience of Dabo at RCB shows. Typically he has Hyam for cover, here he is the cover. So when Grant takes off, he leaves the run for McFadzean to try and recover. McFadzean is not the player for that job and it's 1-0.
Robinson had several chances to score and his trouble in front of goal continued in this game, missing both clear shot efforts in the first half. The second goal was handball and with VAR it would have been overturned.
However, the appreciation for the goal comes from the creativity of Furlong. Having peppered Coventry with long throws, he plays a quick combination with Diangana and gets behind O'Hare. His cross is low and across the goal, where the chaos is circled and is bundled in then kindly given to McFadzean as an own goal.
Hyam returned to the team, replacing Maatsen, but allowing Dabo to move out LWB and it made an instant impact as Dabo was able to get forward and support the attack. Though the pass wide to O'Hare could be argued as the wrong pass, Coventry were beginning to apply more pressure with more possession in the WBA half. On 65 Dabo whipped an excellent cross that found Kane who flashed the ball wide of the goal. Chances were building as WBA gave up possession and space - they were happy to defend the lead.
There was a lot of frustration in this game for Coventry, as displayed by Robins kicking the ball against the linesman and politely telling Sheaf to switch the ball more or get off the field. Though there was no choice but to go for it, Coventry struggled to have any central control, as displayed here with Dabo playing the attacking midfielder with O'Hare ahead of the ball and Gyokeres wide. Losing Hamer early hurt Coventry in any control and with Sheaf and Kelly behind the ball, Coventry struggled to really hurt WBA in their 1-5-4-1.
We thought it might have been another comeback game for City. The McFadzean header was excellent and was a warning sign for West Brom, though they held on for the final 10 minutes and shut Coventry down.
It was a top-of-the-table clash that Coventry got wrong. The shape failed against the WBA midfield control and it made the game very sloppy in comparison to how Coventry have controlled other games. On to another expect tough game away versus Huddersfield and hopes that Coventry will get the control right in that game and not find themselves down at half time.
Stats from @whoscored