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Although this season usually would be regarded as a slow start for promotion finalists, does last season’s late surge give you hope you can do it again?
Last season’s late surge definitely gives hope for a similar turnaround.
It showcased our potential to rally and perform under pressure. We might have left ourselves with too much ground to make up, however a good festive period points-wise could help us climb the table.
Our good home form of only 3 defeats at home in 2023 so far is a massive positive as well.
After going on a run without a win in six, Coventry have lost one of their last seven recently - what are the key factors behind your upturn in form?
The key factors behind our recent upturn in form include improved team cohesion given the massive changes in the squad. Of the current team only Bidwell, Sheaf, Eccles, Allen, Godden & Palmer played regularly for us last season with 11 new faces coming in.
Also, tactical adjustments switching from 3-5-2 to 4-3-3, and individual players hitting their stride such as Bobby Thomas, Tats Sakamoto, Milan Van Ewjik & Liam Kitching.
The Championship is a fairly brutal environment for managers, during your recent bad run was there any pressure on Mark Robins, or does he have enough credit in the bank?
Mark Robins is respected and has earned credit for his previous successes, which buffered some pressure during the bad run.
However, expectations are always high in the Championship. The main worry was having a relatively new owner who might pull the trigger in panic when we went on such a poor run of results despite our performances not actually being that bad.
Robins was never under any pressure when SISU were our owners as they made the mistake of allowing him to leave once before and saw what happened to the club, so he was never going to be allowed to leave a second time around unless Robins forced through a move to another club.
Honestly, I think Robins will stay with us until he gets us promoted or he decides to retire. He seems to strangely go under the radar for any managerial vacancies in the Championship or Premier League.
Looking at the players, of course, the first man we have to discuss is Ellis Simms - how would you summarise his time at Coventry?
Ellis Simms brought energy and glimpses of quality during his time at Coventry so far without the goals or assists so he struggled to consistently make a significant impact.
He’s however started to show signs of hitting form with his recent displays against Leeds & Southampton. I wouldn’t back against him scoring on Saturday.
The other big signing to replace Victor Gyokeres was USA international Haji Wright, has he been a more effective signing?
Haji Wright has shown promise as a replacement for Gyokeres, contributing more effectively in certain aspects and adapting gradually to the team’s style.
He’s not as physically strong as Gyokores but he’s a good runner with the ball and his return of 6 goals so far from 13 starts from 17 shots on target is decent.
He could have scored a lot more considering he’s missed a lot of big chances according to the stats.
Aside from the above-mentioned players, who do you think will cause Sunderland problems?
Aside from the mentioned players of Simms and Wright along with the known performers such as O’Hare & Sheaf, watch out for our right-hand side duo of Sakamoto & Milan Van Ewjik, as they could trouble Sunderland with their creativity and link-up play during games.
Looking at your records, whilst losing six once at home, Coventry have lost six matches away - what are the key reasons for your struggles on the road?
Our struggles away from home are kind of baffling as although we’ve faced tougher opposition in Leicester, Leeds, Ipswich, Cardiff and Hull, our performances in almost all our away games merited better results and more points than we got.
The switch to 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 system has improved our away form and we’ve become more competitive away from home.
The away form was a problem last season at times when we struggled for wins against the bottom sides failing to win at Wigan, Birmingham and Reading.
We often relied on some magic from Hamer and/or Gyokores to get us points away from home with a solid defensive setup and looking to break on the counter attack quickly.
How can we expect Robins to set up tactically at the Stadium of Light?
Robins might set up tactically with a balanced approach, focusing on defensive solidity while looking for opportunities on the counter against Sunderland.
I would imagine we will stick with the 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 system. We opted for a more defensive approach versus Leeds with the likes of O’Hare, Wright, Palmer & Ayari (flair players) benched for more solid players in Eccles, Latibeaudiere & Da Silva.
Which eleven players do you think Robins will select?
I’d expect Ellis Simms to start as our lone striker with Sakamoto on the right. O’Hare will likely come back in for Eccles possibly & Wright for Da Silva.
So my team would be Collins, MVE, Thomas, Kitching, Bidwell, Latibeaudiere, Sheaf, O’Hare, Wright, Simms and Sakamoto in a 4-2-3-1.
Sunderland have failed to beat Coventry since 2007! What is your prediction for the final score?
Considering our historical record against Sunderland and recent form, I’m optimistic about a draw or a narrow win for Coventry City, say 2-1 in our favour.