Cov given day one shock treatment - Interview
Thursday, 17th Sep 2020 13:04 by Clive Whittingham
Back in the Championship for the first time in eight years, Coventry conceded without getting a touch of the ball at Bristol City on day one, but Dominic Jerams from the Sideways Sammy blog seems reasonably confident of their survival chances this season.
For those that didn't follow Cov's fortunes in League One last season, give us the idiot's guide to the style and what made the team successful?
Promotion last season was won off the back of a solid defence and the ability to keep possession. While we were generally quite pleasing on the eye, we weren’t exactly free-flowing when it came to creating and scoring goals. It was a team last year that was all about doing enough to win games rather than completely sweeping opponents aside. ‘Supremely competent’ would be the phrase I’d use to describe last year’s iteration of Coventry City.
I see the analytics community purring over your transfer activity of late, what summer business has been done and what have you made of it?
For the large part, our transfer business has been about replacing players who have left us over the summer. Whether we’ve improved much from the team we ended last season with remains to be seen.
At left wing-back, Sam McCallum has been replaced by Ryan Giles. In midfield, Liam Walsh and Zain Westbrooke have been replaced by, respectively, Gustavo Hamer and Marcel Hilssner. In addition, we managed to secure attacking midfielder, Callum O’Hare, on a permanent deal.
Of that bunch, Gustavo Hamer looks the most promising addition. He seems to be a deep-lying midfield player with a real eye for a pass while also being incredibly aggressive in the tackle. Like much of our squad, he is completely untested at Championship level, but his performances in the Dutch top-flight last year would suggest he should at least be comfortable in this division.
More recently, Brighton loanee Leo Ostigard has been added to an already strong-looking defensive unit after some excellent performances in the German second-tier last year. In addition, former Nottingham Forest youngster Tyler Walker adds some much-needed goalscoring support for last year’s top-scorer Matt Godden, whose form was incredibly streaky across the previous campaign.
Ins >>> Gustavo Hamer, 23, CM, Zwolle (Holland), £1.35m >>> Tyler Walker, 23, CF, Forest, Undisclosed >>> Marcel Hilbner, 25, RW, Paderborn, Undisclosed >>> Julien Da Costa, 24, RB, Chamois Niort (France), Free >>> Callum O’Hare, 22, AM, Villa, Free >>> Ryan Giles, 20, LM, Wolves, Loan >>> Leo Ostigard, 20, CB, Brighton Loan
Outs >>> Jordan Ponticelli, 21, CF, Wrexham, Undisclosed >>> Zain Westbrooke, 23, CM, Bristol Rovers, Undisclosed >>> Jak Hickman 21, RB, Bolton, Free >>> Callum Maycock, 22, DM, Solihul Moors, Free >>> Dexter Walters, 21, LM, Tamworth, Free >>> Bouwe Bosma, 24, DM, Released >>> Charlie Wakefield, 22, RB, Released >>> Junior Brown, 31, LB, Released >>> Reise Allassani, 24, AM, released >>> Jordy Hiwula, 25, CF, Released
How was the first game? Saw you conceded without touching the ball...
That first goal felt a proper ‘welcome to the Championship’ moment. Aside from that, we acquitted ourselves really well in the first-half, started to find our feet and looked to be in control as we worked our way towards an equaliser and possibly should have taken the lead before half-time.
The second-half saw Bristol City take control as we began to tire. It didn’t help that we were forced into two early substitutions after an injury to Liam Kelly (our one) and Gustavo Hamer flying into tackles like a madman while on a yellow card. We struggled to move back up through the gears once we lost control of the game.
It was frustrating to conceded a fairly cheap goal from a set-piece, but it felt like Bristol City would have found another way to win had they not got that goal.
Any notable changes in style or system? How did you look and play?
The 3-4-2-1/3-6-1 from last season was retained and they were only two league debuts in the starting line-up, so we lined up fairly similar to how we would have last year. The most obvious difference was that we had slightly less of the ball than we’ve been accustomed to.
We seemed to be trying to find a balance between keeping our shape defensively and putting pressure on the ball, which seemed to work well when our energy levels were higher in the first-half. We were perhaps a little quicker on the counter-attack than usual – but that may be down to having Ryan Giles on the left-wing, who is absolutely rapid.
For all of the defensive focus, our best spell in the game came when we took control of possession towards the end of the first-half. Gustavo Hamer looks like someone who can really run a game when given the opportunity, his range of passing gave us a good combination of control and threat.
How did the new lads do?
I’ve already mentioned him twice, but Gustavo Hamer really caught the eye – for good and bad reasons – on his league debut. He’s clearly a talented footballer but what really marks him out is his character, he is someone who looks to stamp his authority on the game. The major drawback with him is that he is incredibly aggressive in the challenge, which is going to lead to multiple suspensions over the course of the season.
As for the others, Leo Ostigard at centre-back looked pretty assured and appears to be one of those defenders who constantly wants to be involved in attacks. Ben Sheaf looked pretty tidy with the ball when he came on in midfield – he could be needed to be our defensive midfield anchor if Liam Kelly is out for a while, as he appears to be. Tyler Walker looks like someone who can stretch defences by being both quick and tall – he didn’t get into too many scoring positions in this game but helped bring others into play in a way I wasn’t expecting of someone who had been billed as a goal-poacher.
What represents success for Cov this year and how do you think you'll do?
Staying up will do for this season. You only have to look at the track record of teams promoted from League One in recent years to understand just how big the gulf between the third-tier and the Championship has become.
Still, it’s an exciting time for the club after an extended spell away from this level. There’s a sense that we’re stepping into the unknown here due to the lack of experience of Championship football in this squad. We could be something of a surprise package with the right wind behind us, but it seems more likely than not that it will be an anxious journey towards the 50-point total that generally keeps teams up in this division.
Links >>> Coventry City – Official Website >>> Coventry Telegraph – Local Press >>> Sky Blues Talk – Forum >>> Sky Blues Blog – Blog >>> Sideways Sammy – Blog >>> The Lonely Season – Blog >>> Sky Blues TV - Clasic Match Highlights
The Twitter/Instagram @loftforwords, @SideSammy
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