One question that has been baffling City fans for a very long time now is why we as a team can’t perform for a full 90 minutes. On so many occasions we have seen the team put in a brilliant performance in one half but then be a completely different team in the other.
To a certain extent this can be expected in football but it should only happen occasionally where as with Coventry it seems to be almost every game. No one can quite decide what the issue actually is but it is something that needs to be looked at and solved quickly.
One possible explanation is that of the fitness levels of the players. Every squad goes through fitness issues and every squad has their own fitness regimes but I do believe that being professional footballers the only time fitness should be an issue is when an injury is involved. Footballers are basically paid to keep themselves fit so to think fitness could be the issue is to suggest that these players are not putting in the work required for the job they are being asked to do.
So whilst fitness could clearly have a big impact on their ability to sustain a decent level of play for the full 90 minutes I personally don’t buy into this as the reason. If it is the reason then we have much more deep rooted problems with our squad than any of us could of imagined.
Another possible explanation is that of a lack of concentration. Concentration is key in football and you often find this is one of the biggest differences between the top leagues and the lower leagues. Individual as well as team errors occur far more often the lower you go down the leagues. We as Coventry fans know all about this as we have seen more and more errors which ultimately resulted in us getting relegated last year. Already there is a difference in this league, mistakes are still very much apart of the game but the chances of being punished for them have diminished considerably.
Since Robins arrival as manager we can all see that he has tried to go back to basics in defending and whilst we are beginning to look a little more solid at the back we are still making errors but we are not getting punished for them as often as we were last season.
Whilst there are signs of improvement in terms of the concentration within the team there is still work to be done. Errors are a big part of the game at this level and we have to accept that but again this can’t explain the inability to perform for 90 minutes. It offers explanations as to why we concede sloppy goals and allow teams back into games but it still doesn’t answer the question fully.
Another factor is complacency. This is a major factor when playing well and leading in a game. Coventry as a team have not been able to dominate a game for a long time. We have recently beaten York convincingly in the cup but again this was a 45 minute performance and not a 90 minute one, with all the goals coming in the second half.
We do seem to take our foot of the gas when we do have the lead in a game. Perfect examples are that of the Bury game from this season as well as City’s most recent game against Swindon. We were 2-0 up at the weekend and playing reasonably well and even had a guilt edge chance to make it 3-0 which probably would have killed the game off. However for some reason after this the performance level seemed to slowly drop. Swindon were always going to fight to get back into the game but we almost allowed them to do so and the inevitable happened with us being pegged back to 2-2. I do appreciate that there were mitigating factors in that arguably two of our best players had to be taken off injured. This clearly had an effect on the game but I was still concerned at how in the end we could have easily lost that game.
I would also like to say that I completely agree with Robins in that he wasn’t happy with the physicality of the Swindon side and the referee’s reluctance to discipline them. There were elbows and over the top tackles flying in and they were all coming from Swindon players. The game should be physical but for me Swindon overstepped the mark on Saturday and the referee should not have allowed it.
Going back to complacency and this shouldn’t be a problem for us. Complacency is normally a problem for good sides that are used to playing well and used to winning games, neither of which applies to us. I therefore do not feel that this is the reasoning behind our inability to perform for 90 minutes.
I personally don’t think there is one factor that can be blamed solely for the sides inability to perform for 90 minutes but if I was to offer an explanation for it then I would say that it is partly down to a lack of concentration within the team but mainly down to a lack of confidence and belief in their own abilities. This is something that Robins seems to be instilling back into the players so maybe that long awaited 90 minute performance is finally just around the corner.
On an unrelated note I wasn’t surprised to see Shaw being sacked as assistant manager. Very rarely does a new manager come in and work with the predecessors staff especially one that clearly tried to get the job himself. They clearly have different ideas and different management styles and therefore this is a good decision. Shaw will undoubtedly remain a club legend for his time as a player but he will quickly be forgotten as a manager and a coach.