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Coventry City players examine and receive season-to-date grades; there is room for improvement

Coventry City opinion from CoventryLive as Sky Blues reporter Andy Turner looks at how Mark Robins’ new-look squad is shaping up so far this season

With so many Coventry City changes in personnel over the summer it was always going to be a season of transition and adjustment for Mark Robins’ men during the 2022/24 campaign.

Coventry Formation
Coventry Formation

Expectations are high, raised significantly by last term’s play-off final trip to Wembley Stadium and backed up by a record breaking 19,000 season tickets. But the Sky Blues boss has already called for patience from the supporters as his new-look squad continues to gel and get to grips with Championship football and the way the manager wants them to play, moving away from a counter attacking side with Viktor Gyokeres leading the charge to a more possession-based outfit.

 

The biggest adjustment, however, has been to the loss of the hugely influential Gustavo Hamer in midfield – a void that the club failed to fill in the latter stages of the summer transfer window and which has come back to bite City on the backside with so many early season injuries to the likes of Ben Sheaf and Liam Kelly as the squad clearly lacks strength in depth in that particular department. Nevertheless, Coventry are joint second along with Hull City and Leeds United in terms of having only lost two games so far this term, behind the top two sides of Leicester City and Ipswich Town who have each lost just once to date. The Sky Blues have gone into the latest international break on the back of taking seven points from their last three games to leave them in 13th place in the table, having taken 15 points from their opening 11 games.

Coventry Fc
Coventry Fc

The team continues to be very much a work-in-progress but Robins insists that strides are being made and that he’s confident his side will hit the levels he requires to be a force in the division. With that in mind, we’ve taken a closer look in this player-by-player review to deliver our verdict on his squad

The 31-year-old kept his first choice status despite the arrival of fresh competition in the form of Brad Collins in the summer, largely off the back of his outstanding 2022/23 campaign which saw him keep a record 22 clean sheets and make the EFL Team of the Season. Shutouts have been harder to come by so far this season, with just three to date, but after an indifferent start Wilson has really caught the eye in recent weeks with some game saving saves – not least a stunning stop to deny QPR the lead at Loftus Road. That was backed up by a second after the break and more heroics in a tight game against Blackburn Rovers.

Ellis Simms
Ellis Simms

On the downside, he was lucky to get away with not conceding a penalty at QPR and was criticised by Robins for not being brave enough against Blackburn when the ball ended up in the back of his net, albeit fortunately disallowed for a foul.

Bobby Thomas

The summer signing made a bright start to life at Coventry City following his permanent switch from Burnley, having spent last year on loan at Barnsley. He started the first five games on the right of the back three but a dip below the required standard in the 3-3 draw with Watford saw him take a rest for a couple of games before returning to the starting line-up against Huddersfield, since when he’s re-established his place in the team and played nine of the opening 11 league matches. He’s done pretty well overall and looks like a decent signing who is comfortable on the ball and able to bring it out well but just needs to settle into the level and add consistency to his game.

Grade = C+

Coventry
Coventry

Kyle McFadzean

The stalwart centre-half continues to do what it says on the tin. He’s the experienced, hard as nails man that holds together an otherwise fresh-faced back three, leading and organising from his central berth. Although prone to the odd mistake – Robins pointing to a stray free-kick against Norwich that invited unnecessary pressure – he remains a key figure in the spine of the team who shows no signs of slowing down despite being 36.

Grade = B

Joel Latibeaudiere

The summer signing from Swansea has started nine and featured in all 11 of City’s opening league games, quickly establishing himself as a reliable and versatile addition to the squad. He first impressed out of his natural position when deployed on the left of the back three and, more recently, again being pushed out of his comfort zone by filling in for Milan van Ewijk at wing-back. And he further showed his adaptability when he was tried as a holding midfielder – the position he plays for his country – late on in the game against Norwich, which he did to good effect.

Grade = B-

Luis Binks

A late starter, the on-loan centre-back from Bologna had to be patient to get his chance but grabbed it with both feet when it finally arrived against Hull, since when he’s been a regular starter on the left up until the weekend when he was rested for the third game in the space of eight days. But the 22-year-old has impressed supporters with his reading of the game, quality and calmness on the ball and lovely left foot.

Grade = B+

Milan van Ewijk

The 23-year-old is arguably the standout summer signing so far who underlined how much he had been missed when made a game changing return from injury from the bench against Norwich, helping to turn the screw on the Canaries and sending in the cross which defender Ben Gibson inadvertently turned into his own net to secure a point. He’s quick, exciting going forward and defensively astute. The Dutch player has got better and better and looks a top quality signing.

Grade = A

Coventry 3
Coventry 3

 

Jay Dasilva

The summer capture from Bristol City is probably the team’s most consistent performer so far. The left wing-back hit the ground running from day one and has started every league game so far as he’s quickly made the position his own, no doubt much to the frustration of rival Jake Bidwell. He’s an exciting and effective outlet on the left flank and the missing attacking link City have been craving since the departure of Ian Maatsen.

Grade = A

Tatsuhiro Sakamoto

The Japan international had his best game to date against Norwich as he continues to get to grips with Championship football and a new position. Although brought in to compete for the wing-back slot, the 26-year-old is more of a winger by trade who can also play as a No.10, attacking midfielder. As such the defensive side to his game remains a work-in-progress, albeit he carried out his defensive duties well against the Canaries when he showed his versatility by swapping flanks later in the game.

Grade = C

Josh Eccles

It’s a big season for the Sky Blues Academy graduate and Coventry-born midfielder who has done an admirable job to date as he’s stepped up to being a regular starter, helping to fill the void left by Hamer. Although he’s had the odd game when his performance has dipped, overall he’s been very impressive, none more so than against QPR when he scored his first goal of the season. His set-piece deliveries have been a bit hit and miss but the 23-year-old is growing in confidence and stature with every game that passes.

Grade = C+/B-

Ben Sheaf

City’s best midfielder has been a big miss in recent weeks since being sidelined with an adductor injury, but is hopefully set to return after the international break. When fit he’s one of the first names on the teamsheet.

Grade = B

Liam Kelly

The skipper earned a new one-year extension after his impressive end of season form helped City’s play-off push but has had to be patient to get his chance in the starting line-up this time around. That finally came when Ben Sheaf was sidelined with injury. The experienced midfielder has come in for a bit of criticism from some fans, albeit a bit harsh given that he’s now operating in the middle of the park lacking the combined quality of Hamer and Sheaf. However, he had been doing an admirable job until forced off injured against Blackburn – his absence highlighting just how much he contributes as City struggled to adapt without him.

Grade = C

Jamie Allen

He’s only been back in the starting line-up for the last three games, during which he’s shown what a huge miss he had been while recovering from a summer heart scare. The attacking midfielder was outstanding against QPR and showed his versatility by filling in for injuries in a more holding role in his last two games. His incredible work-rate, energy and tactical awareness make him an invaluable member of the team right now.

Grade = B

Coventry 4
Coventry 4

Kasey Palmer

City’s best creative player is another of the early season casualties, suffering an adductor strain that’s ruled him out in recent weeks. The former Chelsea prospect is arguably the most technically gifted player at the club and earned plenty of praise last season after finally getting his fitness up to the required levels in order to rejuvenate his career following a frustrating spell at Bristol City. He’s yet to hit those heights again this term and clearly been set back by injury. If he can get back to full fitness he has all the potential to become one of City’s biggest assets.

Grade = C

Yasin Ayari

Another technically gifted attacking midfielder, the Brighton loan man is getting to grips with Championship football, learning as he goes along. The Sweden international looks to be growing in confidence with every game that goes by and just needs to add consistency to his game but, overall, looks an exciting addition who will hopefully get better and better as the season goes on.

Grade = C

Matty Godden

The stalwart striker has made his best start to a season with the club, scoring six goals in his first eight games and until the Norwich game was Robins’ first choice front man who was partnered with either Ellis Simms or Haji Wright. The latter started their first game together at the weekend when Godden stepped off the bench and helped City push for their deserved equaliser. As well as being Coventry’s most likely scorer at the moment, his work-rate, movement and pressing from the front continue to give him the edge over his rivals.

Grade = B

 

Ellis Simms

The summer signing from Everton has taken time to get going but looked to have announced his arrival with a brilliant brace at QPR. The big man has all the raw ingredients to be a top player at this level but has lacked the type of service he enjoyed at Loftus Road and remains a work-in-progress.

Grade = C

Haji Wright

The USA international has also had a slower start to life at his new club than he would have hoped but has made an exciting impact without always getting the rewards for his efforts. He’s big, quick and physical and probably the closest thing City have to Gyokeres in terms of style of play, although unfair to compare the two. His record £7.7m transfer fee may be weighing heavily on his shoulders but it’s hoped that his second goal of the season to secure a late victory over Blackburn will give him the confidence to kick on.

Grade = C

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