Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger and his side face Coventry City in the Capital One Cup third round at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday so, to find out more, tactical expert Michael Cox and local journalist Andy Turner gave their pre-match views.
Coventry manager Mark Robins has been in charge for less than a week, so it’s difficult to predict precisely how the Sky Blues will play at the Emirates on Wednesday evening. Robins had very little time to prepare for the match against Carlisle on Saturday, and with the benefit of an extra few days on the training ground, he might send out a very different starting XI.
Andy Thorn started the season as Coventry boss, generally preferring a system featuring a diamond midfield. After his dismissal, assistant Richard Shaw took temporary charge and experimented with a couple of different formations, but kept the starting XI and overall approach similar. Robins, meanwhile, was a 4-4-2 man at Barnsley.
Robins hasn’t wasted time in recruiting new players. Arsenal loanee Conor Henderson [ineligible on Wednesday] brings guile to the midfield with his great vision and delightful left foot, Jamie Reckord has been borrowed from Wolves to provide defensive cover, while free agent Franck Moussa offers dynamism and pace. Clearly, Robins wants to put his stamp on the side immediately - although he rightly stated that this set of players should have achieved better results before his arrival.
Before Robins arrived, Coventry’s approach play had a clear pattern, generally based around width. Steve Jennings dictates the game from the centre of the pitch, spreading the ball out wide to the full-backs Jordan Clarke and Chris Hussey - both are young, energetic and decent crossers. Hussey likes to hit long balls towards the forwards, who move across into the channels, drawing the centre backs into unfamiliar areas. It’s also notable that Coventry get plenty of men into the box when the ball is wide, which will test the aerial ability of the Arsenal centre backs.
A combination of Stephen Elliott and David McGoldrick has been the regular striking duo this season, and they have built a good understanding featuring clever link-up play. They work nicely as a duo, moving across the pitch together as Coventry attack into the channels. McGoldrick often drops deeper when Coventry don’t have the ball, making up the numbers in midfield.
Coventry also offer a threat at dead-ball situations. Robins’ arrival might mean a different style of football in open play, but some of the set-piece plans from Thorn’s tenure will have remained, and there’s a couple of routines to watch out for at corners. The first involves a few players standing along the edge of the six-yard box, then some running towards the ball and some peeling away to the far post, with centre backs Richard Wood and William Edjenguélé swapping positions to find space for a header.
Another involves four players drifting away from goal shortly before the corner is taken, before charging suddenly towards the six-yard box. Against the two previous clubs that have offered a notable set-piece threat so far this season, Stoke and Sunderland, Arsenal managed to prevent the opposition winning a single corner - and something similar would be useful on Wednesday.
ANDY TURNER, COVENTRY TELEGRAPH
Mark Robins has just taken over at the club and I think he’s impressed most people. He’s come in and asserted his authority very early on. He’s let the players know in no uncertain terms what he expects from them. He’s got a big job on his hands to turn things around.
Formation-wise, I think he’ll probably line up in a similar way to Saturday, in a 4-4-1-1, at the Emirates. That will mean one of the strikers has to drop into midfield to help out.
Coventry’s brightest spark so far has been David McGoldrick, who is on loan from Nottingham Forest. Unfortunately, he is cup-tied for tomorrow’s game. Cody McDonald has got some pace about him, and Gary McSheffrey is a seasoned professional who can turn it on.
I would have thought Arsenal will win comfortably. Coventry are desperate for their first win of the season, but I don’t think they’ll get it here. Having said that, they are one of those funny teams who can produce something spectacular just when you expect them to fail miserably.
They could take as many as 9,000 fans for this game - and I think they would be happy if the team turn up and compete.Copyright 2015 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source