As it stands: Wycombe 22-12–7–3 (1st, 43 pts, GD 13) | Coventry 21-8–10–3 (9th, 34 pts, GD 3)
Form: Wycombe WDWLL | Coventry WDDLW
Last time out: Portsmouth 2-0 Wycombe | Coventry 1-0 Lincoln
|P||Wycombe W||Coventry W||D||Ave GpG*|
*Goals per game
Previous meeting: Wycombe 0-2 Coventry (League One, 01/01/19)
Setting the Scene
Hurrah! Twenty-three games into the season, we complete the full set of 22 teams. Unfortunately, we’ve saved the worst ‘til last; Coventry are the definition of a bogey team for us. Should the fact that they’re yet to taste victory on the road in 2019/20 serve as cause for optimism from our end? Well, it probably should, but the hoodoo kind of trumps everything else.
In any case, this feels like a game from which we absolutely have to take something, only three days on from succumbing to a second straight defeat for the first time since April. However, we’ll be facing a team who had Boxing Day off due to their having been conveniently scheduled to play Bury. In theory, that should have benefitted the visitors – so it’s a good thing Wycombe routinely disprove the theory.
Being back among the familiar surroundings of home for the first instalment of this crunch double-header should do us the world of good, but note well that Coventry, despite their ongoing search for an away win, have only lost 2/8 on their travels. It’s another toughie – the Sky Blues, in exile again, are the only side in League One to have lost as few games as us – but a crowd which could exceed 7,000 ought to get fortress Adams Park veritably rocking. The year began with a 2-0 loss in this very fixture; let’s end 2019 by cancelling that out.
A (Slightly) Deeper Look
Another quicker dive into what to look out for tactically and stylistically…
While two defensive lapses hurt us at Fratton Park – Nick Freeman’s insufficient urgency in closing down for the first goal, Darius Charles’ letting the ball bounce for the second – we ultimately performed solidly but unproductively. Pompey must be given credit for the way they defended – particularly set-pieces – but we lacked that cutting edge. The absence of the suspended Adebayo Akinfenwa and David Wheeler’s omission from the starting 11 stripped us of our aerial threat, while a midfield comprising none of its regular cogs – once Curtis Thompson had been forced off with a knock anyway – probably didn’t help matters, as much as Nnamdi Ofoborh put in another man-of-the-match shift in the Dom Gape role.
Coventry are the division’s ultimate ball hogs – they’re number one in possesion, enjoying 54.4% – and win over half of their aerials, with centre-backs Michael Rose and Kyle McFadzean particularly dominant. Rose and McFadzean likely comprise two of a back three in Mark Robins’ preferred 3-4-2-1 system. Depending on the situation, the wing-backs add width to a holding or more advanced two. The Sky Blues tend to favour attacks down the right, where Fankaty Dabo has been a near ever-present. Fellow former Chelsea youngster Zain Westbrooke is enjoying a breakout campaign in the front portion of the midfield and is the Sky Blues’ leading scorer with four – including the decider last time out. He’s also set up a couple and is an emerging threat from dead ball situations. Alongside him, Jordan Shipley leads the way in assists with three – and has bagged three goals of his own. From deeper, Bristol City loanee Liam Walsh is capable of some truly special things. Exhibit A: his goal of the season contender to see off Rochdale last month.
Soaking up pressure is what this Wycombe team are built to do, but we’re probably going to have to do it minus some key personnel. One would expect the inspirational Charles to sit this one out due to the management of his chronic hip condition, while we’ll just have to wait and see if Jack Grimmer is fit to face his old club. The biggest difference, though, could be seen in front of the back four. We might benefit from some extra width of our own to combat Coventry’s midfield-packing and opponent-stretching abilities. Going with four would also help take some of the strain off with Gape and Thompson potentially missing. Both would be significant if not insurmountable losses, but the return of Matt Bloomfield – left on the bench on Boxing Day – will boost our effectiveness off the ball, a must against a side adept at breaking down rigidly organised defences.
A 4-4-2 would allow for the classic little and large combination of the Beast and Scott Kashket, with Paul Smyth also able to slot into the ‘little’ role – which could prove useful depending on the outcome of Kashket’s FA charge relating to alleged betting offences. As for Coventry, none of their strikers has managed more than three goals in 2019/20 – as usual, the team as a whole is grinding our results, netting just 26 times and conceding 23 so far – but Matt Godden was on target 14 times for Peterborough last season. Nevertheless, he’s not registered in his last ten appearances in all competitions, while Maxime Biamou – a more physical presence up top – has notched six in the same span, even if three came against a B team in that trophy thing.
The return of Grimmer would be huge, but Sido Jombati could have to deputise at right-back for the third successive game – while Giles Phillips seems set for his first league action in more than two months. Assuming Gape and Thompson aren’t passed fit, Alex Pattison would come into a three, but let’s work on the assumption that it’s a four for reasons already stated. Rolando Aarons shone on the right against Pompey, and a sustained run in the side could be just what he needs to fully show us what he’s all about.
Considering the free week they’ve just had, Robins could pick the same side which started the victory over Lincoln – but he may feel that Biamou’s extra robustness could cause us more problems at the back and bring the Frenchman in for a fifth start of the campaign. Something I’ve not yet touched upon which could be dangerous: Sam McCallum‘s long throws.
In the Middle: Kevin Johnson
Johnson has already taken charge of both sides this season, running the rule over our 1-0 triumph over Sunderland in October and Coventry’s 3-3 draw at Portsmouth in August – in which he sent off two Sky Blues players. Altogether, he’s shown 57 yellows and five reds in 18 games in all competitions.