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Player Analysis - Ben Sheaf

English, 23-year-old central midfielder.

Sheaf started 21 Championship games with nine appearances from the bench.

1,816 minutes played in the 20-21 Championship season.

1 assist. 4 yellows. 83.7 pass completion rate. gives Sheaf a season rating of 6.47. 15th best in the squad.


Central midfielder. Often defensive.

Expectations, based on an overall analysis of Coventry's style of play.

Coventry approached different games with different tactics, which meant that Sheaf's role varied.

Early on, with Coventry approaching the season in a similar fashion to the end of League 1,

Sheaf needed to connect defense to midfield and midfield to attack. Play forward passes to bring Coventry into the opponent's half.

Later, secure the defensive set up for Coventry. Cleam up from more direct football.


Read Twitter. It's interesting, ranging from a waste of money to great potential.

A quick season summary:

Was the starter as Coventry struggled early on.

To 'blame' for some costly mistakes.

Matt James came in January, and Captain Kelly returning to full fitness in February saw Sheaf's playing time diminish. From consistently playing 90 to 50/60 as a starter or 20 as a sub.

In this game versus Reading, Coventry has just won the ball. Sheaf, at the base of a midfield 5 (4-1), drops to collect the ball in transition. His role, as outlined above, is to build the team forward. Connect the back to the front and here you can see him shaping up to play long. The ball was lost from a poor attempted long pass and Reading equalize.

There was more joy in the next game versus Forest, as Coventry got Sheaf ahead of the ball and into the midfield behind the front pressing 4 of Forest. From behind the press of Forest, Sheaf was able to connect more forward passes. When the game allowed, Sheaf was able to play more successful football, and given his passing completion rate of 83%, Coventry would benefit from him playing in space.

Versus Preston, that space was lacking. In this shot, you can see both Sheaf and McFadzean directing the ball back to Marosi. Yet, it comes inside to Sheaf and this is where he faces a lot of criticism. He loses the ball here because of the incoming pressure. And, like above, he is so deep that the mistake leads to a goal for Preston.

Coventry began to play with various systems of play to address the struggle for scoring goals. The shapeshift to a 4-3-3 versus Birmingham shows how the team went more direct. This meant less pressure on building through the center of the field. Sheaf, with a man of the match performance, found success in supporting the attack with an 80% pass completion rate within the midfield, and not searching for balls too deep. Notably, he was also partnered with James and Hamer.

In November, versus Norwich, Coventry set up to defend. A deep 1-5-4-1 meant that the outlets for Coventry were wide. This meant that Sheaf stayed narrow. Within the 92% pass completion rate, 3 of those were long balls. He is better suited to having players around him to combine or to release - as you see in the image, feeding the wing and supporting from deep.

Later in the season, Sheaf missed some of the bigger games for Coventry, including the 2-0 over Brentford and the 3-1 over Bristol with Robins opting for Kelly and James as the 2 central midfielders to execute the game plan. In reflection, it's understandable to rely on experienced players when the backs were against the wall and I would expect a similar setup for the coming season. However, with James gone it will likely fall to Hamer to fill the central role and leave O'Hare to play in the #10 role, meaning Sheaf might still be limited in his contributions.

In summary, Sheaf has just signed for three years, building on his loan period from Arsenal. Obligatory or not, a year in the Championship playing under the expertise of Matty James and a fit Liam Kelly, the expectation for Sheaf is to take that experience and become a consistent performer in the center of the field.

Stats from and @EFLStats





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