Sideways Sammy gave his opposition view ahead of Coventry versus Plymouth Argyle.
1. Hi again and thanks for talking to us. How do you think the season has gone since the two clubs last met in August?
It’s been a season of good and bad runs. After a fairly poor start, we matched a club record five league wins in a row back in October, before failing to win the following nine games, winning three in a row over Christmas and coming back down to earth more recently by failing to beat two relegation contenders in our most recent games.
2. What do you think has been the key to Coventry performing above expectations this season?
While we’ve rarely been outstanding, we’ve generally had chances to win in the games we’ve lost or drawn this season. There has a consistent baseline of quality in our performances. Had we a finisher in the class of Marc McNulty, Adam Armstrong, or Leon Clarke, who we’ve had in season gone by, we would be in the play-off picture, but we don’t and this season has felt slightly underwhelming thus far despite sitting in a comfortable position in the top half.
3. Who have been the key players?
Tom Bayliss remains a class act in central midfield. His ability to drive forward and glide past opposing midfielders is a key feature of our attacking play. With pacey and dynamic players around him – especially Luke Thomas and Dujon Sterling on the right wing – we have threatened to play some really confident and incisive attacking football. Alongside him, Liam Kelly stepping into Michael Doyle’s defensive role in midfield has improved our attacking play with Kelly playing the ball quicker and covering more ground than Doyle to free our attacking players to get on the front foot more.
4. If anyone, who have been the weak links?
Finishing has been a consistent problem for us this season, especially with our key summer signing, Conor Chaplin, struggling for confidence in front of goal. It could well be the case in this game that we’ll have a lot of the play and create chances, but I wouldn’t back us to put the game to bed in a convincing manner if we do so.
5. How do you expect your side will set up for the game on Saturday?
It is likely to be a similar set-up to recent weeks where we have a front two in Jordy Hiwula and Conor Chaplin who’ll offer energy to press the Plymouth defence. As it’s an away game, I would imagine we’ll look to utilise the pace in this side to launch quick counter-attacks but if Liam Kelly and Tom Bayliss can get on the ball in midfield, we could play more of a possession-based game.
6. One player who Argyle have got the best out of who never really shone at Coventry is Ruben Lameiras. Why do you think this is?
The general problem for Lameiras at Coventry City was getting a run in the side. First of all, he was a supporting cast member against leading acts such as Jacob Murphy, James Maddison, Ryan Kent and Adam Armstrong, then he was part of a side struggling against relegation that was too desperate for results to be patient enough to allow a potentially flaky attacking midfielder to develop some consistency and express himself. He finally got a run in the side towards the end of his spell with us, linking up particularly well with George Thomas with those delightful reverse passes he specialises in, but Mark Robins’ natural caution saw him released in favour of more experienced campaigners to get us out of League Two last season.
7. Coventry are still deeply embroiled in a dispute with the owners about the Ricoh Arena. How do you see that playing out in the long run?
The honest answer is, I don’t know. The only thing that can resolve this situation is our owners, SISU, selling the club, but they appear to have little interest in doing so. As it stands, this club is homeless at the end of the season with the parties involved in the dispute seemingly unwilling to return to the negotiating table and there being no viable alternatives to playing at the Ricoh Arena. It looks grim, but we’ve been here before and there have been short-term fudges, my guess is that there will continue to be fudges until all legal options for SISU to dispute the sale of the stadium are exhausted. What happens after that, is anyone’s guess.
8. What are your thoughts from the outside on Argyle’s underwhelming season and the reasons for it?
Aside from Ruben Lameiras, Graham Carey and possibly Freddie Ladapo, there aren’t too many players in the Argyle squad that I would imagine would walk into most other League One sides. While Derek Adams is a shrewd manager, that lack of quality across the pitch appears to have been the biggest reason why Argyle have struggled, even if there have been runs of form that have suggested the team can pull away from danger.
9. How do you see the season planning out for both clubs? Can Coventry sneak into the play offs?
I would be delighted to be wrong, but I don’t think we’ll sneak in to the play-offs. The gap is widening with each week and having seen us play the better teams at this level, we’re lacking that quality in the final third to win enough games to bridge that gap.
For Argyle, it’s going to be difficult to stay up with several teams starting to improve at that end of the table, but not impossible given that there are sides like Rochdale and Walsall that look to be in a tail-spin. Staying solid, eking out draws and narrow wins could be the key to staying up.
10. Finally, a prediction for the score on Saturday?
Having struggled in recent weeks against play-off contenders, I’m feeling pessimistic heading into this game. I can see Argyle sneaking the win here, 2-1.