Coventry City 3-1 Bristol City
It was a desperate performance for Coventry City. After the performance versus QPR, a reboot and win were essential for this game.
Coventry started strong, with a very clear approach to the game. That approach can be summarized with:
288 attempted passes.
144 were accurate, giving a 51% completion rate.
36 of those passes were in the defensive third.
Coventry lined up to be and played very direct.
Although after the first goal, you can see how Coventry gets the ball and with purpose look to hit Walker and Godden. This header was comfortably saved by Bentley, but with two strikers pushing forward, the Bristol midfield drops deeper to cover. Being too deep to go forward has been a theme for Coventry this season.
The goal came from Coventry pressing higher and forcing Bristol into a mistake. Again, the shape and intent from Coventry was to take the game to Bristol and here you see how they force Bristol into that mistake with pressure and cover all over.
Compare this line-up to the QPR game and you'll wonder why Coventry hasn't played with two strikers more often. The long ball intent is clear, and the combination of run and check between Walker and Godden is such that it pins Bristol deep. O'Hare with the #10 role is able to feed off of knockdowns and have the most impact.
O'Hare, in that same position from a Walker flick-on, lays off the ball to Godden. The shot is saved very well by Bentley and the ball comes back off of the post. More purpose and intent to get at Bristol and go for goals. Coventry had 15 shots total in the game, and importantly, looked threatening. Even McFadzean attempted an 'overhead' kick...
The intent was clear for Coventry, to the point that an attack down the left had slowed. The recycled ball across the field from James lead to an odd moment of panic from Ostigard who aimlessly played the ball away. A concern here is that Coventry don't want to be panicked with the ball, especially in an area of the field like this.
Yet, of course, a mistake had to happen. The intent to go forward is clear as the entire team around McFadzean here offers nothing. They all expect the long ball. Wells was gifted a ball into a 1v1 and you couldn't help but begin to wonder if Coventry would undo themselves.
Bristol looked far off the pace. Even after the gifted goal, they still offered very little. Early on there were moments of success.
Coventry, having played longer and lost possession pressed. Diedhiou dropped to receive the ball and expose Coventry with a switch. Coventry, as I have identified a lot, sit in a back 5 too much. It leaves spaces in the channels and there were several moments like this that teams have punished Coventry for, but Bristol didn't capitalize.
Here is that deep Coventry line again. Massengo, who looked to cause the most problems for Coventry, laid the ball off to Simpson. The ball clipped over the top for Semenyo invited Diedhiou to attack the cross and Coventry scrambled it away. McCallum is just out of shot, next to Semenyo. Kelly is sitting in front of the back 5, with James and O'Hare screening in front.
Note also the back post area. I highlighted how QPR attacked the wings and Bristol look to have set up similarly in this moment.
A constant issue lately has been the reliance on, but lack of width for Coventry going forward. The image shows how Walker has had the ball for several seconds before Eccles even considers going forward. McCallum is still on the halfway line. Recycling the ball here would mean an opportunity to use the width, but it's an all too common image lately with no wide outlet.
However, in this game, a second striker helped City to negate this issue, keeping the wingbacks for defending and using the forward combination play to take the game to Bristol.
Coventry scored from three opportunities in this game that were 'gifted'. The throw-in was won after forcing Bristol into a mistake. McCallum 'Delap' makes a throw-in a real threat. 1-0.
The second see's a slip and Coventry gifted the ball.
I thought O'Hare played this pass too soon. If Walker had got to the ball, he would have been at a tight angle from the goal and likely isolated. Instead, Kalas clipped his heels and even though Oggy thinks that it's a harsh penalty, it's still a penalty.
The third was an almost identical moment. The substitute, Rowe, plays a ball backward that Coventry jump on. Walker picked up the pass laid it into O'Hare. Instead of passing early, he drives at the defenders inviting the press and laying the ball to an open Gyokeres to ease the pressure for 3-1.
A clearly defined approach to the game that connected some of the missing previous dots. A second striker with such a deep 5 is essential for any sort of forward success. The issue from today is the apparent panic at any sort of string of passes. This approach has worked previously this season and I would expect to see the same approach for the remainder of the season. 7 points clear of Rotherham makes for a good Monday afternoon view.