Coventry City 2-0 Barnsley FC
Reflecting on this game, and aside from the recent performance at Rotherham, there have only been a handful of standout performances this season. The most significant and recent, for me, would be the Brentford game on Feb 20th. Of course, you may think differently, but this game was approached with a very specific plan. Whilst the playing style looked a whole lot different, the approach was the same in limiting the opponent in how they want to play. Your opponent will always have the ball at moments in the game and cause problems. Yet, you can make a difference to the impact of that possession by controlling where they have the ball. Reflecting on the Brentford game, Coventry pressed and forced them into making mistakes deeper in their half. Controlling where they play with your setup and game plan. Last time out versus Rotherham, Coventry played more direct, controlled areas of the field and set up to repel the favored long ball attack with two holding midfielders covering the defensive 3/5. The same happened in this game, with a setup that disrupted anything that unbeaten Barnsley tried to do with long balls, and a packed central midfield that stole almost anything that came through.
A large part of Coventry's control recently has been from set-pieces. McCallum's throw-ins are an obvious asset and the knock-downs are proving essential for Coventry to create chances on goal. Hyam's goal on 9 minutes came from a quick throw-in to DaCosta and a lay-off from Biamou. The strike from Hyam probably surprised you, as it did me.
Note the moment before Coventry wins the throw-in that leads to the goal. The ball is cleared from a long throw-in, but as Kelly gets on the ball, he is only looking for one thing. The result is Hyam staying up the field and scoring!
Coventry did their homework on Barnsley, not only to approach the game to limit their impact but to exploit some opportunities.
One of those opportunities was the Barnsley high line. It is likely that the early goal settled Coventry down and encouraged the more direct, less risk style even more, as it seemed every moment of possession resulted in a long final ball. Yet, even before the goal, you can see the high and quick step from Barnsley that Coventry almost exploits with Hamer.
Much like versus Rotherham, Coventry only played 38 passes in their own third. You can see the long kick from Wilson and what it does to the game. Barnsley has wingbacks dropped to make a back 5. The midfield box is dropping, leaving Dike isolated.
Coventry absorbed a lot of Barnsley pressure in the second half and still looked to attack in much the same way. Here you see the release for Godden's goal. The ball has left O'Hare's foot here, but he might have been ruled off by VAR. Yet, the high line was exploited and this time it resulted in a goal.
Barnsley are 6th in the league for a reason.
First off, they press aggressively. They condense the field quickly with the stepping defensive line and then close in on opponents holding on to the ball. Coventry were prepared for this by playing long and quickly. The theory for Barnsley is to get the ball back quickly when teams waste it. This certainly happened a lot, and when they had the opportunity, they pressed and won the ball in good areas.
When a team loses possession, they are often unbalanced and disorganized. This happened below as Coventry lost the ball. Collins, who was a true sweeper-keeper in this game, won the ball and released Brittain. His ball infield could have caused more issues for Coventry as you see a 2v1 overload versus DaCosta. However, the attack was slow and ultimately resulted in a soft Dike header to Wilson - a blunt attack seemed to be the theme for Barnsley as their commentators noted the lack of urgency when they got the ball down.
When Barnsley did get the ball down, they struggled to get through the defensive live. Here you see a dinked ball that Wilson was quick to come and claim. You can see the deep 5 of Coventry and the holding two midfielders and Hamer pressing the ball.
Then, from a similar position, the first real Barnsley chance came on halftime with a more direct attack from Styles, instead of stalling in front of the deep Coventry line. The direct ball was laid off by Dike and put through for Woodrow who put it just wide. It was a glimpse and something to expect more of in the second half.
Yet, Coventry were happy for Barnsley to have the ball down and probe because the defensive line was so organized, especially further away from the goal:
Another resolute performance against a team on a strong unbeaten run. An early goal definitely helps, and an off the pace Barnsley made it 'easier'. However, the performance still required huge games from players like Biamou who worked tirelessly to press, chase long balls and hold the ball when needed. The back line were strong. The holding midfield of James and Kelly made forward play difficult for Barnsley. An overall performance that see's Coventry 9 points up on Rotherham and pulling others into the fight. Quite the difference from the QPR game.
Stoke next. We could have stolen a goal against them last time out with some ingenuity on set pieces, so expect some more the same in this next game.
Tell me what you think of this analysis.