Player Analysis - Liam Kelly
Scottish, 31-year-old central midfielder. Kelly started 21 Championship games and appeared in 2 more from the bench. 1,634 minutes played. 2 goals. 0 assists.
Whoscored.com gives Kelly a season rating of 6.7. 6th best in the squad.
Position The central midfielder, often more defensive in a pair/three.
Coventry started the season away to Bristol City, which saw Kelly leave the field after just 23 minutes. Though Kelly last played in the Championship in the 12/13 season, his experience was missed. Coventry then won 1 of the next 4. November 20, Kelly returns to the lineup and Coventry go 7 games unbeaten, winning 3 and drawing 4. There was an 8th draw after that, but Kelly was missing after scoring and two and getting injured against Wycombe on December 12th.
The following 11 games without Kelly resulted in 5 losses, 4 draws and just 2 wins. This is also the time we saw Matty James join the team on loan.
Then, the pinnacle of the season for Coventry that saw 4 wins from 5 and almost guaranteed survival in the Championship - Kelly was back and captain.
The 7 games unbeaten run started versus Birmingham. Here you see Kelly holding, allowing Shipley and O'Hare to push behind the Birmingham midfield. With his experience and quality in the team, Coventry could push higher.
Even versus the eventual league winners, Norwich, Kelly was able to get on the ball and orchestrate the attack. Commanding possession allows the team to organize, as you see Giles and Dabo exploiting the width from the compact Norwich team.
Kelly was influential in the excellent 2-0 performance versus Brentford. The game-plan was based on direct play and a high press, but it demonstrated the versatility of the lineup when you have a leader like Kelly in the team. Here he is covering the high Coventry press, and next, you see him playing more direct from deeper for Coventry to pin Brentford deeper.
Kelly's influence should also be highlighted. In the 3-1 win versus Bristol City, Kelly helped the team organize after going ahead. Defending in front of the backline meant O'Hare could stay ahead of the ball and in one of his better performances, O'Hare got an assist to please many critics.
Ben Sheaf had his better performances without Kelly in the team, as he often fills the same role, so for the coming season, Sheaf might need to play higher or James needs to come back! Here you can see the support that Kelly provides to allow the Coventry attack to build against Derby. Coventry were consistent in this game and notably, Hamer was able to play in the space you see here. Hamer completed 78% of passes in this game because he was able to play in spaces, instead of under pressure and deep.
The importance of Kelly's role is noticeable more so when he is absent. The unbeaten run in the middle of the season and the strong finish align with Kelly's return to the team. For the coming season, and without the experience of James, Kelly's fitness is even more important. Hamer and Sheaf now have a season of experience at the Championship level and we would expect them to step up to fill the void of an absent Kelly, but his influence was a significant contributor to City's survival in the 20-21 season.
Stats from whoscored.com and @EFLStats