Coventry City 0-2 Norwich City
The cover image is from whoscored.com and sums up the Coventry performance in this one. If the game was a 'free hit' as many considered, then why not approach it like a free hit? A single striker has failed Coventry more often than not in this league. Wing backs, against a team that pushes their full-backs forward, will not work in transition, leaving you constantly deeper and without the ball.
Transition Warning. Here you see that Coventry lost the ball trying to build forward. A theme for the game, but a significant warning sign here as the pattern of play from Norwich is the same as the second goal. DaCosta is high and wide. Rose is supporting, but the ball doesn't make it there. So now McFadzean is isolated versus Pukki as Hyam steps to Vrancic to press. The cut across from goal is behind Cantwell and Coventry survive. For now.
Coventry took the press to Norwich early on, forcing them to lose the ball 15 times, but the ball was often given right back with a bad touch or a forced/counter-pressed pass. Here you see the result of a low press. McClean, who picked up the ball where name is drove between O'Hare and Walker, then at the flat midfield three and played Skipp in to bear down on the back 5 with his strikers ahead.
I didn't like the line-up from the start for this game. This image should help show that. The line-up was a back 5 out-of-possession. So, naturally, any lost possession would result in immediate recovery to such shape and no real press. Why are 5 players in a line defending Pukki and oncoming pressure? Why is it 4v4, including our supporting striker, O'Hare, with 5 behind the ball at 1-0 down?
In the first minute, Wilson went long. Pushed everyone up and kicked it long, which is smart if there is a purpose. An isolated Walker or Biamou (previously) is not a purpose. Here you can see the single Walker against the Norwich back 4 and holding 2. Only O'Hare can get near enough, but Hanley dominates these moments.
Refer back to the image from pressing. Norwich are lined up the same way to attack with a single striker, yet they have control of the ball in the final third. Something Coventry have struggled with all season.
The alternative is to try and play out. Rose and Hyam are not good enough, but the situation is also not right. There have been questions on both Wilson and Marosi this season, and this is one for Wilson - Why? Norwich have three forward and upon the first touch of Rose, a fourth. A turnover here and it's 4v4 to the Coventry goal. Rose took a poor touch, but why is he being asked to receive the ball there. 43 minutes. 2+ minutes to half time and possibly making changes to get back in the game.
The forward line for Coventry have faced a lot of criticism this season for poor finishing, but getting into those positions is proving more difficult lately. Here you see Allen opting to play centrally with O'Hare and the transition almost cost Coventry. Note DaCosta top of the screen, wide open. An area that I identified pre-game as an opportunity.
Just 4 minutes earlier, Walker laid the ball off to a wide open DaCosta. Coventry filled the box and O'Hare headed over. A clearcut chance for Coventry. So why would they chose an alernative route from one that proved successful?
Buendia and Cantwell were constantly influential in this game. Cantwell was exciting to watch and with 104 passes between he and Buendia, it is easy to see where the creativity in this side came from. Last week, the census was that Coventry started playing against Cardiff after being 3 down, I disagree and believe Cardiff eased up. I think the same here, but Norwich constantly looked threatening. Cantwell, even on 72 mins is a threat. Yet, a pass like this can show why the shape failed all game, even as Coventry went to 2 'strikers'.
Pask, replacing DaCosta, presses on Cantwell, but he has the ability to play over the condensed Coventry team. The 1-5-3 looks organized, but it is so narrow, and therefore ineffective. Again, reverting to the deep 5 means the midfield 3 cannot affect the ball. The dropped defensive line invites the full-backs forward and the pressure increases.
Giannoulis and Aarons both were forward a lot in this game. See the picture below. The Coventry 1-5-3 is deep again, and Aarons drives inside to switch to Giannoulis 30 yards from the Coventry goal. Full-back to full-back infront of the Coventry goal.
Rose off. Ostigard in. Robins said he could have hooked any of the back 3 against Cardiff. He did in this game.
Biamou for Allen. A second striker and an ineffective position for Allen.
Becoming a 3-4-1-2, which is what many called for at the start of the game. Two strikers.
Based on what I have shared already, a back four would have been more ideal to help Coventry get a grip on the movement of Norwich and start pinning them deeper.
Coventry had better phases in the second half and here is an example of the benefit of two strikers. O'Hare runs into the space that two strikers has created for him, as they pin the defenders deeper. O'Hare is alive in the half spaces like this, and especially when running on to the ball and I think the team should be built around him. Around him still places an emphasis on Hamer and James as they are the providers, and it's Hamer who plays this pass for O'Hare.
The run from O'Hare resulted in a save from Krul and a Coventry corner, much to the delight of CWR who a dismayed at the constant lack of corners for Coventry.
Biamou. I produced some individual analysis on Biamou recently, and higlighted how well he plays with another striker. Seconds before, in the clip below, he was wider and connecting with Pask. Walker was central and occupying Hanley. As the ball finds it's way to James, Biamou spins to then push on to Gibson and provide an outlet to break the press, and Coventry have a 2v2. Hamers shot went just wide.
It's not much, but its something. Playing to strengths, with a purpose.
Reflection. If Norwich are going to push up so high, and our midfield three would be pinned so deep, as you see in the preceding pictures, why not play a 1-4-3-3 and at least have an additional player ahead of the ball? Why not go 1-4-4-2 and exploit the spaces that Norwich left behind on the wings, as Biamou has done in the final image? Lots of why's, and I think the players were set up to fail. Brentford and Swansea will likely be losses if the team is setup so tactically naive again.