Coventry City 1-2 Nottingham Forest
Shape, part 1.
The weakness for Coventry in this event was always going to be the wings. It was against Birmingham, and where the penalty came from. I would argue that Forest have a more experienced attack and should have therefore been an early warning sign for the pressure that McCallum and Pask would experience.
Below, you can see a long ball that found Knockaert wide on the Forest right, as soon as he touches the ball, Christie the right-back, is around him and Krovinovic running into space where McCallum might have been, The resulting cross from Christie was hard and low across the 6, which could have been turned in. 2 minutes in.
This was an early trend and one of mounting concern.
It didn't look very good for Coventry in transition ahead of the ball. Below you see the ball played wide to Gyokeres who is supported by O'Hare. O'Hare who was the right forward, now underneath providing support to the left forward. Forest had recovered 7 players in this clip, and seconds later as Coventry recycle possession, the entire Forest team was back to push Coventry back in possession.
O'Hare, labeled as a right forward, was far from it. You see in the support for Gyokeres that he really is a #10 and moves freely. The brilliance he has to play between the lines and the constant energy he puts into performances gives him the freedom of this role. He received the ball in between the Forest lines several times early in the first half. This was due in part to Forest losing the ball 4 times in the opening 20 minutes and Coventry counter-attacking. As you can see, had Forest gotten the ball wide they would quicker in these moments, they would have had all sorts of space to attack.
Just moments on from the turnover explained above, the same happens and O'Hare receives the ball after Sheaf wins it centrally, finding Hamer, who then splits the defensive midfield pair of Cafu and Garner. O'Hare is excellent with the ball and crosses over the recovering run of Garner, forcing him to hold up for a second. This gives him the freedom to drive at the Forest backline. a 3v2 centrally was Coventry's advantage early in this game.
The ball found Biamou and he scored from this:
He had the highest player rating for Coventry yesterday. His goal was deserved and made him look like a top Championship striker. I noted it didn't look good for Coventry in transition, ahead of the ball. Aside from the flash of brilliance for the Biamou goal, Coventry caused very few problems for Samba. If we're going to overload centrally as we did, the shape needs to reflect the opportunities the game creates for us. Isolated strikers that need to score past 3/4/5 defenders is not a conducive shape.
Forest goal and momentum.
Pask had a tough night, isolated, but in reflection for the comparison of the DaCosta performance. Now, they played different roles so let's not get too excited, but this 1v1 defending from Pask lead to the goal. Importantly, this moment in the game lead to a momentum shift and put Coventry under pressure until half time.
Perhaps the weather was a factor, as Forest looked the more threatening when they had the ball. Coventry, frustrated by ceding the lead, also seemed to push harder leading to more transitions and more exposure at the back. It all leads to a swing in the Forest favor as they overload in the key areas again:
There are mixed feelings about corners. There is a whole lot of research done on the number of goals created from corners and the number of corners it takes to score - that alone should tell you all you need to know. You can go down that rabbit hole yourself. Birmingham had 9 corners against Coventry. Forest had 4 in the first half. Coventry had 0 in all that time. No one scored from 13 corners in 135 minutes of football. However, it leads to a momentum shift. Coventry begun to feel the pressure and found themselves deeper in their own half and blocking crosses or making tackles for corners all lead to the team feeling like their back is against the wall. The Forest overloads were the main cause of this.
Shape, part 2.
4-3-3 just about worked? versus Birmingham, but I showed you earlier on how it failed here. Leaving McCallum and Pask exposed was going to hurt us against teams who would utilize overloads. The shape change, bringing Rose into a back three and DaCosta to go wide as a wing-back worked. Here you can see both McCallum and DaCosta further up the field, pinning the outlet wingers of Knockaert and Freeman back deep. Forest dropped deeper and from this moment forward it was really about Coventry finding an opening.
DaCosta's impact will not go unnoticed, and he looked like he was enjoying the opportunity with 55 touches and 3 out of 5 completed dribbles. In the image above he crossed aggressively for Biamou who put it just wide, but he was also looking to beat the defender 1v1 when possible.
The shape of Coventry was much more effective in the game. Forest scored and were resolute to not lose that lead as Coventry did, which helped the momentum in the game, having only one shot in the second half to Coventry's 12. Coventry had 74% of possession in the second half, Hamer having 17% of that. The trend was to play wide for a cross or a combination to get into the Forest area. Win the ball back and do it again.
Coventry have a central overload here, in the build-up to the Forest second goal. Knowing how the shape has changed and potentially exposing the wings, even more, there has to be better ball retention. McCallum is narrow as the ball is coming from the right back area. Coventry needs to clear and allow the team to push up. James flicks the ball on and the resulting transition allows Forest to switch the ball wide into space for Knockaert.
The same pattern occurs with Christie overlapping in a 2v1 against McCallum, as he did in the second minute:
Yes, unfortunate for Rose, but Grabban was right behind him and a player of his quality would have surely scored, so why let him have the joy? I jest.
The shape improved in the second half. As Coventry took more control, the wingbacks pushed forward, pinning Forest deeper and allowing Coventry to have sustained pressure as they searched for the equalizer that never came. 12 shots, 3 on target.
6 corners, 3 hit a Coventry player.
Stats stats stats, all in our favor, but no goal.
QPR beat Watford. So must we.
Wednesday have a game in hand. They did just beat Bournemouth so let's assume they win their next and the game in hand. That puts them on 31 and one above Coventry.
Derby plays Rotherham on Wednesday, which we would favor a draw, or a no-pointer if that's possible. Rotherham then still have two games in hand. If Derby wins, they jump Coventry tonight.
It's an exciting league to watch with unexpected results and regular games, but not when you're nearing the bottom of it. We must 'kick on' because it seems everyone around us is beginning to, and we cannot get left behind.
What do you think?