The Coventry View: goalscoring crisis


Tony Mowbray –

Back in January, it looked as though Tony Mowbray had turned around results and morale at Coventry. What followed was a crushing run of poor form to see them not only miss out on the 2015/16 promotion race, but begin this season in a relegation battle. What are the problems at Coventry? Sky Blues blog Sideways Sammy (on Twitter @SideSammy) discusses what must be done to awaken this giant from its ongoing slumber.

You’ve lost half of your last 28 league games, relegation form. We’ll cut to the chase: what’s gone wrong?

The short answer is everything. Ever since Burton efficiently secured the first away league win of last season at the Ricoh Arena, it’s all unravelled. From the final minute sale of James Maddison in the transfer window, the awful January signings of Darius Henderson et al, key players losing form, Tony Mowbray letting Aaron Martin, Jim O’Brien and Romain Vincelot leave, a summer transfer window where none of our preferred signings came, and, to cap it all off, Wasps buying our academy training ground. We’ve gone from being one of the best attacking teams in the division to one of the dullest, most miserable teams to support in the space of nine months.

According to Experimental 361, you’ve made 3.4 changes per game this year – many felt tactical inconsistency was a problem in the second half of last season as well. Does the rotation lead to disjointed displays or is Tony Mowbray right to drop players when they don’t perform?

Not getting the transfer business done early has contributed to the amount of changes Tony Mowbray has had to make to his team thus far. Players who weren’t meant to be first-choice – such as Dion Kelly-Evans, Cian Harries and Ben Stevenson (all of whom have impressed) – have ended up playing a lot of minutes while Tony Mowbray scrabbled around for bodies to bring in before the end of the transfer window. Having failed to bring in our preferred targets, it feels like Mowbray is still to come up with a style of play that suits the squad he has assembled. Although, there have still been some odd calls to drop players after decent performances along the way.

Sticking with 361, you’re taking 11.5 shots per game, but 27 per goal. Is it largely a case of poor shooting, or more like not getting into positions to threaten?

It’s a combination of low quality chances and low quality strikers that has contributed to our ineffectiveness in front of goal. Generally under Mowbray, we’ve been reliant on individuals to create moments of magic to break teams down rather than being able to pass our way through sides, we don’t really have players capable of winning games on their own in our squad right now. As we’ve been unable to force our way through the middle, we’ve been putting in a lot of crosses but not getting enough players in the box to attack them. We’re going to have to adapt our style of play to solve this goalscoring crisis.

Jodi Jones looked bright in patches last year, but many now feel he struggles when teams double up against him. Is there a need for more movement in the final third to create gaps for him to run into?

Aside from the inconsistent Ruben Lameiras, our other forward options are packed with one-dimensional players who lack the dynamism that the likes of James Maddison, Jacob Murphy and Adam Armstrong provided last season. For his part, Jones is fairly one-dimensional in that he constantly looks to cut in onto his left-foot but his ability to beat defenders is unparalleled in this side. Preferably, Jones would be an impact sub at this stage of his career but the lack of viable alternatives has seen him thrust into being our main attacking threat. I worry that the burden is going to weigh him down at such a young age.

Many feel Gael Bigirimana has been one of the better players in the last couple of weeks. Are you pleased with his work rate?

Bigirimana has returned this season as a more switched-on player than he appeared to be last season. We saw the quality at times, the passing, the energy, the positional ability, it was all there but it was undermined by moments where he’d lose concentration and leave the team vulnerable in the middle of the pitch. It’s just really nice to see someone who clearly has the talent look like he’s ready to put it all together again.

Does ‘Bigi’ need a player like John Fleck alongside him – somebody capable of playing the ball forward early?

Bigi’s a bit of an all-rounder, although I would say that his best qualities are his passing and energy which make him more suited to the playmaker role in midfield rather than as the destroyer. Alongside Vladimir Gadzhev, he’s had to go through a lot of defensive work while his partner charges around the field recklessly. Hopefully, the return of Chris McCann to fitness in the near future will allow Bigi the freedom to influence the game more.

Jordan Willis has often played out of position in the last two years. Have there been chances for him to show what he can do at centre-back this season?

Not being a physically built player and being capable of filling in at right-back has held Jordan Willis back at times in his career, as has a long-term injury last season. Willis hasn’t been particularly outstanding at centre-back this season but doesn’t look like making too many mistakes or being totally dominated by his striker. He’s grown in confidence with each game and has quietly been one of our better players.

You’ve got a better goals against record than seven of the top 10. Can some of the more defensive players come out of the first 8 games with credit?

I think we’ve been lucky at times this season defensively, as Bradford and Norwich have shown thus far, the better teams will be able to put us to the sword. That being said, the aforementioned Jordan Willis has been pretty solid thus far while Reice Charles-Cook has impressed in goal at times, aside from the few fairly soft goals he’s allowed. Cian Harries looks like a star in the making, he is absurdly composed on the ball, capable of making nonchalant 60-yard passes without blinking, he still needs to bulk up and learn a few of the dark arts of defending but he’s got a big career ahead of him.

Coventry haven’t finished in the top six of a division for 46 years. Whenever the team starts to lose a few games, does that kind of track record have a psychological effect on the fans and club?

More than any single thing that has happened on and off the pitch over recent years, the apathy that consistently seeing a team let you down engenders has been sucking the life out of this club. There’s only so much that people can take and every year, a small section of loyal supporters goes away. As we’ve seen in recent years with sell-out crowds for the Ricoh Arena return game and the JPT area final against Crewe, there is the support there to sell-out the Ricoh Arena on a consistent basis but it gets harder each year to keep people coming back when there’s so little tangible evidence that simply getting behind the team is going to be rewards.