Coventry City 0-0 Birmingham City
"The former landlord visits..." and it got a little tasty, but not before it was frustrating and sloppy.
Another clean sheet and point on the board for City is good enough for 4th at the end of the evening. Though the game left something to be desired, there were only 4 goals across 5 games in the Championship. The international break hangover lasting a little longer than usual, apparently.
Coventry returned to two strikers having completed the game task against Sheffield United, with Godden and Gyokeres partnering ahead of O'Hare.
Knowing that Birmingham would come into the CBS to frustrate and stall Coventry, the setup made sense to keep with Godden and Gyoekres ahead of O'Hare. With Hamer alongside Kelly, and getting a little more freedom to join the attack, the expectation was more of this type of counter. Especially as Birmingham would play longer.
However, and true to recent form, Coventry have struggled in these situations. Having broken away with the ball from a Birmingham throw-in, Hamer had both Gyokeres and O'Hare against the isolated and back-tracking Sanderson and Dean. Within 10 seconds, the pass from Hamer puts Gyokeres wide and any chance of attacking isolated defenders is gone.
Frustratingly for Coventry, the argument could be made for a penalty on Sanderson for pulling Gyokeres back from a Coventry corner. Though it feels 'desperate' to be calling for a penalty, it was really only a way through this compact Birmingham defense.
O'Hare and Hamer are forming an excellent understanding within the counterattack. Here Hamer attracts Roberts from the backline, leaving space for O'Hare to break into. Importantly, Sunjic tracks the run of O'Hare, leaving space for Hamer to attack the edge of the area. Unfortunately, O'Hare's ball is easily collected by Man of the Match, Sarkic. A trend for O'Hare...
Birmingham had a 50% pass completion rate in the game. With quick, long balls forward the chance of completing those attempts are low. With just 230 attempted passes, the attacking style of Birmingham was clear. What they did do well was to set up for the situations created by the long ball. In just one example from a long free-kick, 4 Birmingham players position themselves to anticipate any sort of knock-down and opportunity. The same happened with goal kicks and over half of their targeted passes were in the final third.
Coventry struggled to make anything happen and looked susceptible to the chances that Birmingham fashioned. Significantly, another long freekick found the head of Deeney and his header found a wide-open Hogan who blazed it over and let Coventry off. Other scrambled chances come from the consistent long throw-ins by Roberts that found Coventry struggling to clear and build any sort of meaningful possession or attack.
The red card for Woods gave City hope to make something happen, but it amplified the resilient defending for Birmingham and highlighted the attacking struggles of Coventry. Though in the last 15 minutes Coventry were only able to get 3 shots away, and all 3 were off target.
In another example, Gyokeres combines with O'Hare, pulling Birmingham out of shape. Note the 8 Birmingham players recovering to defend the counter. Hamer's run from deep is found by an excellent Gyokeres pass, but the shot on goal is weak and easily saved. There were chances in the game, but nothing came from consistent or purposeful play. When the attacks come from counter-attacks, it is difficult to identify weaknesses with opponents varying, minus Roberts who was constantly the throw-in taker. The chances are always half chances and to build a game approach in the hope of scoring or executing on 1:1 chances, it's easy to see why an organized defense can keep out such an attacking style.
On to Bournemouth where a better attack is desperately needed.
Stats from @whoscored