Coventry City’s new ball weapon

Coventry fc

Another level, precocious talent’s eye-catching debut and Coventry City’s new dead ball weapon

Coventry fc

Coventry City match analysis from CoventryLive as we pick the bones out of Saturday’s goalless draw with Sunderland

Coventry City’s new-look squad continues to find its feet but there were plenty of encouraging signs in an entertaining and thoroughly competitive game against Sunderland.


The Sky Blues dominated much of the first half but lacked the cutting edge in front of goal in the few key moments that presented themselves to strikers Matty Godden, Ellis Simms and Haji Wright, while Mark Robins’ men threw their bodies on the line at the back to keep the Black Cats out at the other end.

City had to settle for a point in the end but a clean sheet and several eye-catching individual performances suggest that this evolving side is heading in the right direction. Here are some of the things learned from the goalless draw at the CBS Arena.

Another level

When Milan van Ewijk signed for the club last month for a reported £3.4million it felt like another statement of intent from the Sky Blues. A highly-rated Netherlands Under-21 who plays on the opposite flank to Ian Maatsen for his national team, the wing-back is one of those players who has excited from day one and appears to be getting better and better with every game as he feels his way in Championship football. The wing-back positions lacked a bit of dynamism last season but Van Ewijk, and Jay Dasilva on the left, have significantly upped the quality in those areas of the pitch that are so key to City’s attacking thrust.

No disrespect to Brooke Norton-Cuffy, Josh Wilson-Esbrand and even Fankaty Dabo who had a similar impact when he first joined the club in League One, but this kid is on another level. His pace is impressive, able to get forward swiftly and recover ground by tracking back to tackle – something he did exceptionally well when up against Sunderland’s talented Jack Clarke at the weekend. He’s a great character as well and already connected with the fans who, judging by their singing, are thoroughly enjoying watching him.

City’s new dead ball weapon

The 22-year-old revealed a new string to his bow against the Black Cats when skipper Kyle McFadzean called him over from the right side of the pitch to take a throw-in from the left, before promptly launching the ball into the box – a new weapon in City’s attacking armoury that they used two or three times on the day.


Asked about it afterwards and why we hadn’t seen it before Saturday, Van Ewijk said: “It’s just I haven’t really gotten the chance to do it, but I think the last two trainings they told me to practise it a bit. Then on Friday we had some training on it, but today it’s not a secret anymore.”


He added: “People have other qualities like, for example, my speed; why can’t somebody else run as fast as me but then if you look at a midfielder you could say why can’t I have the same vision he has, you know, so it’s just everybody has his own qualities.”

Long throw specialists have been few and far between in recent years with Sam McCallum the last player to make effective use of the dead ball tactic that produced several goals while he was at the club. Prior to that, we probably have to go back as far as Aron Gunnarsson over a decade ago during City’s previous spell in the Championship.

Milan van Ewijk new ball weapon
Milan van Ewijk

Eye-catching cameo from debutant

Latest summer signing Yasin Ayari made an eye-catching debut when he was sent on for the last 20-odd minutes against Sunderland in a straight swap for man of the match contender Kasey Palmer. The 19-year-old Brighton loan player slotted into the No.10 role and immediately made an impression with a lovely pass to tee Ben Sheaf up for a shot just outside the box. But it was his sublime through ball to put Haji Wright in on goal for City’s big chance of the game that really highlighted his quality.


A highly technical and precocious talent, Ayari played with great confidence and displayed impressive vision, not least when he spotted the opposition goalkeeper out of his box and attempted to lob him from inside his own half. It was an edge of your seat moment for a split second until it bounced wide of the target but fair play to the lad for trying. Had that gone in the place would have erupted. It’s the sort of improvisation and creativity that’s often the mark of an exceptional talent – a gift fans were used to seeing from Gustavo Hamer on a regular basis. Mark Robins insists he’s still very much a work-in-progress with a lot to learn, not least to run more, but on first showing he really does look like a game changer.

Action from last match
Yasin Ayari in action

Stepping up amid in-coming competition

Another encouraging sign in an evolving squad is the continued development and confidence of Josh Eccles who really does look to have stepped up his game this season, clearly determined to establish himself as a regular starter following Hamer’s departure, and with the prospect of another midfielder likely to join the club by close of play on Friday when the summer transfer window shuts.

The Academy graduate looks really comfortable in the Championship and growing into a really well rounded midfield player. The challenge now will be to ensure that he maintains his high levels of performance to ensure he competes every step of the way with whoever arrives in the coming days.

Josh Eccles
Josh Eccles

Invaluable Fadz

The evergreen Kyle McFadzean continues to prove that there’s still a place for old school centre-backs in the modern game. In his post-match assessment Mark Robins was rightly waxing lyrical about the hard man defender who continues to be the linchpin in City’s back three. Leading by example, the 36-year-old heads, blocks and clears everything that comes his way, while he’s also decent with the ball at his feet – a prerequisite for central defenders these days.


Just as he did last season with the likes of youngsters Luke McNally and Callum Doyle, the skipper continues to organise his fellow defenders either side of him, with Bobby Thomas and Joel Latibeaudiere looking every bit the part from their early showings in sky blue and, no doubt, happy to learn from him. His experience and leadership on and off the pitch is invaluable, and giving him a new contract extension in May was another smart bit of business by the manager and every bit as important as any of the summer recruits.


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