Twitter says it was a bad result. Stoke are in 7th, likely pushing to get into the big league at the end of the season, and have quality players like Joe Allen. In reflection, Coventry had chances in the first half to steal a goal, as we will explore, but overall the result was a fair result for a resolute performance. 'Gus'
He was the best player on the field today, if you ask me. Here you see him connecting between the lines. Godden's movement away creates space for O'Hare to move into with the ball. Hamer's box-box position also provides the freedom and supply for O'Hare to have more success. He didn't have that against Sheffield Wednesday.
As the phase continued with a recycle of possession, Hamer again gets on the ball and uses the switch to exploit the space created by O'Hare's dribble. Ositgard joined the attack but the Coventry 2v1 advantage is wasted. This was one of 28 occurances of losing the ball.
Coventry played Stoke much like the way Sheffield Wednesday played them last week. Recognizing opportunities would be hard to come by and the fact that we're in 'different leagues' in terms of season aspirations., meant pressing when appropriate. One of those exact moments resulted in a soft Godden shot, but a warning to Stoke and a compliment of the way that Coventry played in the first half:
Stoke are a big team. Just watch the highlights and see the size difference, so goals are always going to be hard to come by. Coventry had few attempts on goal. There was a penalty shout on 10 minutes and a shot from Hamer right at Bursik, along side the moments above, but the potential never really delivered.
- For early attacking corners, Coventry caused chaos. Surrounding the goalkeeper makes everything just a little more frantic and could create an opportunity, instead of allowing Stoke to mark man to man and likely dominate.
- Then, as a counter to the Stoke set pieces, and a personal favorite, Robins kept three players high. Stoke HAD to react. Robins called their bluff and they kept the third man back to help defend - that is one less player that we would usually face in the box.
- Later on in the game, the corner routine changed to something more familiar. Note Dabo's position to draw attention and leave space in the front post area to attack.
Consider the maturity and inventiveness in this game from Robins and his staff. Maximize what you get, and whilst there were no goals, it demonstrated a thoughtful approach to the game. I also think that Robins might have purchased my Set Piece guide...!
Stoke had their opportunities to score, with several glaring misses. Besides Fletcher missing inside two minutes, Stoke had a strong period of 20 minutes in the second half. After a positive first half, Coventry pressed differently, which seemed to make the difference and create the space for Stoke:
In the two following images you can see Godden leading the press, with O'Hare in support. The rest are organized behind the ball. The two pressing in a line are setup to prevent a switch of play, making play predictable.
Into the second half, Coventry pressed more with 3:
Earlier, with two pressing to make it predictable, Stoke struggled to find the red square of space, but the confident hunting pressure from Coventry then created the space for Stoke to exploit.
Breaking the Coventry press meant that key players, such as James McClean could get high and wide. In doing so, Dabo and McCallum drop deeper, naturally dropping the Coventry line toward their own goal. McClean and Smith enjoyed this freedom:
Smith created the first of several Stoke chances from the right hand side:
It began with poor defending. The ball was wide with a 2v1in Coventry's favor and an organized defensive unit,
Several seconds later, McFadzean has been beaten after an inventive turn from Brown. Sheaf covers, and the chaos from poor individual defending leaves two Stokes players open. The resulting scuffed shot hits the bar and Coventry survive.
Then the other side from McClean. He found space as Coventry dropped deeper and Stoke recycled possession. The resulting cross was headed over by Powell, but Sheffield Wednesday capitalized on the one opportunity. 0-0 can quickly become 0-1 when you relinquish space like this:
Sheaf off for Baka. Biamou on for Godden. On paper it put two strikers forward and O'Hare as the 10. Hamer would need to sit deeper as the likely conductor for counter attacks, next to Allen. Although it was for the last 15 minutes, Coventry were more influential with Allen and O'Hare playing behind Godden. Impact of the subsitutes? Nothing significant, either due to time, or the game being in the balance and a preference to preserve a pooint than lose it all.
Note the maturity in City's game from earlier games against top opponents and Godden just running himself into the ground. Compare that to now and his involvement with a creative pair behind him. Coventry set out with a focus to try and play with speed and creativity against the traditionally strong football that Stoke will play. That said, it is hard to attack with a fear of being countered on, as we experienced earlier in the season and especially as a close game hits 70+ minutes. This lead to the team preferring to be hard to beat, than an all-out-attacking force. So, the ingenuity to maximize set-pieces should be acknowledged as an effort to impact the game without comprimising defensive organization.