Valérien Ismaël takes his Albion side to Coventry for the lunchtime kick off on Saturday with his team looking for a first goal in almost five hours of football. The man on the opposition bench, Mark Robins, is enjoying a successful season in the Championship with his team sitting just two places and two points behind the Baggies and, therefore, with the opportunity to leapfrog them in the table should the hosts claim all three points.
City have experienced their own goalscoring issues recently having, like Albion, endured successive goalless draws, but they ended their goal drought on Saturday when they scored two goals in the last five minutes at Bournemouth to claim a point. The 4-1 victory Fulham remains their stand out result of the season, although the fact that it came immediately after a 5-0 defeat at Luton suggests that City are liable to the odd poor performance.
Nonetheless, the Sky Blues are a club on the up having emerged from some difficult times in recent years. They ended their 48-year run of not finishing in the top six of any division when they secured a 6th place finish in League Two in 2018 and won promotion via the play-offs before winning the League One title two years later. Their drop from the Premier League to the fourth tier was compounded by disputes with the landlords of the Ricoh Arena that saw them play at Northampton Town’s Sixfields stadium for the 2013/14 season, and at St Andrew’s last season. They are now in the first of a ten-year agreement to play at the renamed Coventry Building Society Arena but are committed to moving to a new stadium to be built on land owned by the University of Warwick.
They have certainly enjoyed this season back in their home city and the Sky Blues are one of only two Championship clubs, along with Fulham) to have earned more points at home than Albion. Swansea City ended their unbeaten run at home at the beginning of last month but seven wins and two draws from their other games at the CBS Arena means they have one more point from their ten home games than the Baggies.
As well as trying to work out how to end Albion’s goal drought, Ismaël has an intriguing decision to make in midfield. Jake Livermore will serve the last of his three match ban for his red card at Huddersfield while Jayson Molumby will serve a suspension for his dismissal last weekend. Of the four senior central midfielders, that leaves Alex Mowatt and Robert Snodgrass available, in theory. However, with the Scotsman reportedly having been told he can leave the club in January following some sort of fall out with the Head Coach, it seems unlikely that Ismaël will use him on Saturday leaving him with a set of less-than-perfect options.
Of the senior squad, Semi Ajayi, Matt Phillips and Adam Reach all have experience of playing in central midfield, although as Reach is left-footed, Ismaël fondness for balance might mean his selection is less likely given that Mowatt is also left-footed. Ajayi has had a couple of unspectacular games in midfield for Albion although he played there regularly for Rotherham, while you feel that Phillips can be trusted to do a job pretty much anywhere. Another option might be to promote someone from the PL2 side and, according to the Express and Star’s Joe Masi, 19-year-old Jamie Andrews has been impressing in central midfield at that level and could be considered, although he doesn’t even have a squad number on the official website unlike many of his U23 teammates.
Having had a full week to work on the set up, one would hope that the team are well prepared for whatever line up Big Val goes for. No one is expecting any significant tactical shift, but it will be interesting to see if Ismaël comes up with any change in approach to look to solve the problem in front of goal. As I have stated previously, the build up play from Albion has actually been ok, but within 30 yards of the opposition net, it seems to fall apart. The longer the drought goes on, the harder is comes to break as the confidence of the front players continues to drop.
Albion are yet to concede a goal at the Ricoh Arena, and we all hope that continues on Saturday, but they desperately need to find a way of finding the net at the other end. City are enjoying a good season but the Baggies should not fear them – the players are capable of beating anyone in this division if they perform anything close to their best. I think a turnaround is just one decent performance away – that could be this weekend. COYB!!
It’s been more than a decade since these two clubs met with Albion having been at least a division higher for all of the intervening seasons and, in 2017/18 when the Sky Blues dropped to League Two, the clubs were three divisions apart.
Since Coventry were relegated from the Premier League in 2001, Albion have lost just twice to their most distant West Midlands “rivals” but were ultimately promoted in each season that has happened. The head-to-head record this century shows eight wins for Albion, one draw and two wins for City while the goals are 23-5 in the Baggies’ favour with four of the Sky Blues’ goals coming in a 4-2 win at the Hawthorns in December 2007.
The one draw is the last meeting at what was then still called the Ricoh Arena in October 2009 when the teams played out a goalless draw. City are yet to find the net against Albion in their new (again) home with the other results finishing 0-1, 0-4 and 0-5, that last win for the visitors coming in the fifth round of the FA Cup in 2008. Goals from Chris Brunt, Roman Bednář (2, 1 pen), Ishmael Miller and Zoltán Gera saw the Baggies through in what is their biggest win on Coventry soil.
City’s last home win over Albion was in the last meeting between the sides at Highfield Road when a late Johnnie Jackson goal earned all three points for the hosts in December 2003. In the equivalent fixture two seasons beforehand, the game took place on Easter Monday immediately after Albion’s players and fans had watched Wolves lose at home to Manchester City, a result which meant that victory would move the Baggies level on points with their Black Country rivals. Bob Taylor’s first half goal duly secured the points and even a late red card for Trevor Benjamin could not spoil what was a pivotal day in the race for promotion.
The Baggies have actually won more games at Coventry than they have lost in all competitions, although the league record in this fixture shows ten wins apiece when the Sky Blues are the hosts. City have never beaten Albion by more than two goals with their best result being 4-2, achieved twice (at home) in successive seasons in 1967 and 1968, with Ronnie Rees scoring in both fixtures. Not surprising perhaps, until you learn that he scored a brace for City in 1967, but moved to Albion in between and netted for the visitors in 1968.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
24 Mar 2010 – League Championship
West Brom 1 (Reid)
Coventry City 0
Last meeting at Coventry City
24 Oct 2009 – League Championship
Coventry City 0
West Brom 0
Last win at Coventry City
16 Feb 2008 – FA Cup 5th Round
Coventry City 0
West Brom 5 (Brunt, Bednár (2, 1 pen), Miller, Gera)
Albion’s Record against Coventry City
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