Sideways Sammy 2016/17 Season Review

It’s that time of the year again! Strap yourselves in, have someone close with a pipette to moisten your eyeballs, as it’s time for a bit of the old ultra-analysis – the Sideways Sammy Season Review.

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Featuring 74 Pages of:

Club-By-Club Reviews, Squad Reviews, Jack McBean Memories, Manager Reviews, The Player of the Year, The Young Player of the Year, What and an Exhaustive Account Of The Coventry City Season.

Preview: Charlton Athletic

Last Saturday’s win over Peterborough was perhaps the most enjoyable home game of the season. The game itself was a fairly mediocre one that we slightly edged, however, it was the atmosphere brought on by the good weather, legend’s day, and the chance to congratulate our Wembley heroes that made it such a wonderful afternoon.

Already, that’s feeling like a distant memory following the announcement of the season ticket prices this week. Personally, I don’t feel like they’re as scandalous as it’s being made out, but I also appreciate that people making a decision with their own money may feel differently. Regardless of the actual pricing of the tickets, the announcement has seen the battle lines drawn for what’s inevitably going to be a summer of mud-slinging and what could be a really difficult next season ahead.

Possible Line-Up

While the Peterborough game was an opportunity to bask in the sunshine and forget about the reality of the situation we’re in, this Charlton game where they’ll be protests and relegation could be confirmed looks set to serve as a cold, hard dose of reality. For Mark Robins and the players, it’s about displaying that they can cope in a less advantageous atmosphere, potentially having to deal with disruptions to the game, which could be a truer mark of their ability to produce the goods next year.

After a hectic list of fixtures in recent weeks, Robins should benefit from having a better rested squad than the past few games. Hopefully, the likes of Jordan Willis, Kwame Thomas and others dealing with minor knocks will be fit enough to enter contention for selection, potentially offering the manager some difficult decisions to make.

With Ruben Lameiras in good form over the past few games, it’s hard seeing even a fit Kwame Thomas taking his berth just behind Beavon in the starting line-up. The main selection quandary could well be whether to hand Jodi Jones a rare start ahead of Kyel Reid, even though the latter has been much-improved under Robins.

Last Time We Met

As I tried to locate the away end at The Valley back in October I heard a mysterious cockney voice utter “beware of flying pigs” darkly into the South London air. Thinking nothing of it other than that Londoners are weird, I took my seat for a game of football that I hoped would kick-start a season that hadn’t exactly gone to plan yet.

That cockney wisdom soon came to make sense when the referee blew his whistle to start the game and pigs did indeed fly (well, fall in style). Point made, the game resumed after a lengthy period where rubber pigs were removed from the pitch by the players and we proceeded to lose 3-0 to a team managed by Russell Slade. In fairness, it wasn’t actually a terrible performance, but we were too weak at the back and lacked the ability to convert possession into goals, however, it was a display that screamed relegation.

How Are They Doing?

Charlton have been beguiling this season, at times they have been one of the best teams in the division but they’ve so often been sub-par and appearing to be lacking in motivation that they now find themselves in mid-table with nothing to play for. A high level of squad turnover this season hasn’t helped, first in Russell Slade clearing out the mess of a squad he’d been left after relegation from the Championship, and then Karl Robinson making sweeping changes after replacing Slade in November.

While Karl Robinson has the excuse of not working with a squad entirely of his own choosing, Charlton’s performances under him at times have questioned the concept of him being a good up-and-coming young English manager. He’s got a very strong squad to work with, possibly one of the best at this level, yet he’s only picked up 20 points from the 21 games he’s had in charge – 10 fewer than Slade managed with the same number of games.

The quality in Charlton’s squad comes mainly comes from midfield/attack, where Ricky Holmes has been the star player this season. Remarkably for a player who’s never played as high as this level before, Holmes has looked a cut above in his wing play and end product. Former Swindon winger Nathan Byrne provides further quality out wide, while the attack boasts the physical prowess of Josh Magennis and Lee Novak, as well as the enigmatic former Celtic striker Tony Watt.

Karl Robinson’s big signing Jake Forster-Caskey has been a class act in a deeper midfield position, supplying creativity alongside academy product Joe Aribo who was rather exuberantly likened to Dele Alli early in the season by Robinson. The experienced Andrew Crofts provides a physical platform at the base of midfield to build from, while there’s also club captain and hero Johnnie Jackson to call upon despite his advancing age.

Possible Line-Up

At the back, Charlton have an array of high-calibre centre-backs who could all really be playing at a higher-level. Patrick Bauer and Jorge Teixeira are domineering presences in central defence and the only random foreign players to last Russell Slade’s summer cull. There’s also Jason Pearce who has excelled in the past at Championship level, while Ezri Konsa has emerged as a big prospect this season after playing in a number of positions in defence and midfield.

There’s also the reliable Chris Solly to call upon at right-back, who has stayed loyal over the years despite previous links to Premier League clubs, and Declan Rudd in goal, who made several appearances last season in goal for Norwich in the top-flight. All in all, this is a time that shouldn’t be languishing in mid-table in League One.

Prediction

There are similarities between this Charlton side and the Peterborough one we faced last week. Both have aspirations of playing pretty, passing football and have a number of dangerous attacking players, but both have appeared to lack a cutting edge to their play and have a soft underbelly that can be exposed with proper organisation and the right mentality.

I would be confident predicting a win in this game, however the potential protests present an unknown factor both in how they may happen and whether it will have any effect on the team. Given that it is an unknown factor, I’m going to stick to my guns and tip us to win this game 2-1.

Another Manager

There can be no defending of Russell Slade’s record as manager at Coventry City. He was supposed to come in and quickly grind out the results required to keep us in the division, he won one of 13 league games in charge. What’s more, the performances were of a low standard and offered little hope that things could improve to an acceptable enough level to merit entrusting him with rebuilding the club over the summer.

However, we’ve Slade wasn’t really sacked for the results and performances, per se, he was sacked because his replacement had already been sourced. As shambolic as it is to sack a manager after 13 games, having the replacement already lined up at least partially demonstrates the kind of decisiveness behind the scenes that has been lacking over the past 18 months.

It begs the question of why this kind of move couldn’t have been made when there was still a realistic chance of survival? It’s not only looking back in December when Slade was appointed, but also the months beforehand when Mark Venus was in caretaker charge of the club, or even the period at the start of the season where it looked like Tony Mowbray was unable to get results with this team. It was the right decision to sack Slade, but it’s one that had to be made after a series of more meaningful poor decisions.

The upshot of it all is that we’ve appointed a new manager to oversee the rebuilding of the club in a lower division, where there’s the conceivable threat of dropping into non-league. Not only that, but the lack of leadership and a sense of a vision at the club this season has led to acrimony between the club and the fans, which has further put the club’s future in jeopardy. It’s why it’s hard to congratulate the club on bringing back a manager who was statistically our best ever.

It’s also worth considering that we’re not bringing back the Mark Robins who left the club so acrimoniously four years ago. Back in 2013, he was someone who had earned a job at an up-and-coming Championship club on merit. In 2017, after two failed managerial spells at Huddersfield and Scunthorpe, he’s exactly the kind of manager a struggling League One club would appoint.

Not only that, but there were clear signs towards the end of his first spell at the club that a collapse in form was imminent. Robins’ cautious approach tended to work well away from home when we hit teams on the counter-attack, against teams looking to the same against us at the Ricoh Arena, we were starting to run into issues. The sense that Robins is a short-term manager who struggles to maintain consistency over the course of a league season has been backed up by his two previous managerial postings.

That being said, Robins has tended to be a canny operator in the transfer market, having laid the foundations not only for the team that started the season at Sixfields so well but also putting together the team at Scunthorpe that are currently pushing for automatic promotion (save for two or three key players). Given that we’re expecting another big turnover of players over the summer, I have more faith in Robins to build a team than I would any of our previous managers.

In the grander scheme of things, the identity of the manager right now probably counts for very little. It’s not pessimistic to suggest that attendances next season could be around 5,000-6,000, at best, that there’ll be a major exodus of talent over the summer, and that the squad will be strung together via a mixture of raw youngsters, loans and veterans.

At best, Mark Robins may help bring a sense of stability to the club as we head into a really difficult time. However, if we find some form next season, the club is set-up to lose talent without being able to replace it and it feels like any upturn will be short-lived. At worst, if Robins cannot make a reasonable impact at this club, it could really put the club in serious jeopardy.

Being manager of Coventry City is a high stakes game where the rewards are small and the pitfalls of failure are massive. Like in the game of Russian Roulette where you’re reward for surviving not shooting yourself in the head, is another chance to maybe not shoot yourself in the head. As a fan, there’s always a part of you that hopes that the next manager really changes things – maybe winning at Wembley or winning promotion from League Two would achieve that – but at this stage, we really need someone to show us first that they can do that before we believe in them.

Preview: Shrewsbury Town

Tuesday played out in predictable fashion, a baffling team selection from Russell Slade, a disjointed performance, soft goals conceded and a too-little-too-late fightback. Just seeing James Vaughan and Tom Pope on Bury’s team-sheet was enough to know that defeat was certain. We appear to be heading into League Two via a complete capitulation.

Russell Slade has this week attempted to make his case for staying at the club longer-term by completely disavowing himself from any responsibility from his results. Considering that he was given room for maneuver in the transfer market in January, both in bringing in several of the players he wanted and not having key players sold, the excuses don’t really wash – also, the fact that he had money to spend at Charlton and produced an abysmal team this season too. It is a curious approach anyway because he seems to be making his case to the owners by criticising the way they’ve run the club, perhaps suggesting that his statements are about salvaging his reputation, rather than his job here.

For someone who was supposed to instil defensive discipline, you would have thought that he would know the merits of sticking with a settled defence. Instead, he over-reacted to the Swindon result by playing four centre-backs across the back four and then had to correct his error at half-time in bringing on Ryan Haynes and Dion Kelly-Evans, having already lost the game.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

Russell Slade has talked about tactics this week like someone who has googled ‘what is the best football tactic?’ It’s looking more and more like he doesn’t set the team up based on the strengths of the players at his disposal, rather that he’s trying different tactics and different players in the hope that something will eventually work. It’s why it’s hard to believe that he’s capable of laying the foundations to rebuild the club in League Two.

As for this upcoming game against Shrewsbury, I imagine that he’ll stick with pretty much the same team that ended the game at Bury, we did win the second-half 1-0 after all. The main intrigue to this game is whether a defeat would expedite Slade’s departure from the club, or whether the owners would be keener to avoid the negative headlines that come from sacking a manager and will allow Slade to muddle on for as long as possible.

Last Time We Met

It was the first home game of the season when we last played Shrewsbury, when there was not exactly hope that this would be our year, but the belief that the squad would be strengthened over August and we wouldn’t be relegation fodder. The game itself was a fairly encouraging display on our part against a Shrewsbury side packed with hatchet men such as Gary Deegan and Adam El-Abd, who probably relished the opportunity to kick the living daylights out of a young and inexperienced team. We probably had done enough to win the game, but a 0-0 draw wasn’t exactly a surprise for a team clearly still three or four players short.

How Are They Doing?

Shrewsbury’s season turned on the somewhat surprise decision of manager Micky Mellon to leave the club in October for National League side Tranmere Rovers. That potential crisis proved to be an opportunity to bring in Grimsby manager Paul Hurst to the club, and he has overseen a gradual transformation of the team from a bunch of cloggers destined for relegation to a more hard-working and dynamic unit who look to be comfortably sailing away from danger.

What’s been remarkable about Shrewsbury’s transformation under Paul Hurst has been that their transfer activity has been distinctly underwhelming but incredibly effective, demonstrating what a difference a manager with a game-plan and eye for talent can make on a modest budget. They’ve made two categories of signing under Hurst, the first has been bringing in fairly average League Two players such as defender Aristote Nsiala and winger Alex Rodman, the other has been loan signings of fairly inexperienced forwards such as Tyler Roberts, Stephen Humphrys and Freddie Ladapo – basically, the kind of signings that make you question why your club is trying to do things on the cheap.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

With former Port Vale forward Louis Dodds also finding form under Paul Hurst, Shrewsbury can be devastating up front on their day. Tyler Roberts has been the most impressive loan signing, the West Brom youngster doesn’t quite fit in as either a winger or an out-and-out striker, but his pace, directness and skill on the ball has made him a real handful in attack, having previously struggled to get into the team at Oxford earlier this season. Ladapo is a big, powerful striker who still needs to hone his technique, reminiscent of Dan Agyei. Stephen Humphrys is reputedly a big prospect at Fulham and seems a good mix Ladapo’s raw power and Roberts’ skill on the ball.

Elsewhere, we can expect Shrewsbury to be hard-working and competitive all over the pitch. They did concede three against Charlton in mid-week, demonstrating that there are holes to exploit if we can put them under pressure. That defensive brittleness is perhaps a result of playing two attacking full-backs in Junior Brown and Jack Grimmer with a defensive pairing of Nsiala, who as earlier stated was fairly average in League Two before arriving in January, and Mat Sadler, who has been a full-back for most of his career.

Prediction

I don’t think there’s much more to write other than Shrewsbury are heavy favourites for this game, and given that they’re not entirely away from danger yet, they may well be motivated to really attack this game to take another leap towards safety. The question is how motivated are we going to be to put up a fight? I’m guessing this will be a 3-0 defeat.

Preview: Bury

If there was any further proof needed that this is a relegation season, then Saturday supplied just that. It wasn’t just that we lost the game in such a poor manner, it’s that the game was such a big opportunity to inject a sense of momentum into the season and we failed to take it. Being unable to win important games, or to build momentum at any point in the season, is what relegates teams – in addition to being crap.

The three goals we conceded against Swindon demonstrate just why we’ve struggled since Slade’s appointment. Given his reputation as a defensive manager, it was to be expected that we’d defend deep, however, failing to not only prevent crosses going into the box but also to deal with them renders his entire raison d’etre for being here pointless. If you’re going to be defensive, defend well, if you can’t defend, you’ve got to be more attacking.

This upcoming game against Bury is not so much last chance saloon as it is earning the right to call future games ‘last chance saloon’. We’re 11 points adrift of safety and the requirements to survive are getting bigger with each passing week. A three or four game winning streak may change the mood around the club, but it’s not something that would be nice if it happened, it simply has to happen over the next three or four games.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

Having picked an unchanged team for the Swindon game, Russell Slade has promised changes for this game. It’s likely to be bad news for Dion Kelly-Evans, who seems likely to make way for Jordan Willis now that he’s available. Farrend Rawson could well step back into the defence too, likely to be in place of Jordan Turnbull given that Nathan Clarke is seemingly Slade’s man.

That rule is likely to keep Kevin Foley in the side too, although where he’ll be shoe-horned in will be of some interest. The 4-3-3 Slade deployed in the past few games could well be abandoned to allow Kyel Reid and/or Jodi Jones to play as wingers, while Stuart Beavon is likely to be given a partner to play alongside in attack. If I had to guess, that could mean Foley will be played as a central midfielder in a 4-4-2, along with Callum Reilly.

Last Time We Met

It was one of the least memorable games of the season when we last faced Bury, back in August at the Ricoh Arena. Off the back of a somewhat unfortunate draw against Shrewsbury, this game looked a chance to kick-start our season with a win. However, the game transpired to underline just how lacking we were in physicality and experience in an insipid display that somehow ended in a 0-0 draw – although Dion Kelly-Evans had a great chance in the second-half to win the game.

How Are They Doing?

It’s been an odd season for an erratic Bury side who have been through three managers and have used more players than any other team in this division. Having cut the budget massively over the summer, Bury started the season in excellent form under David Flitcroft. However, that good start quickly petered out, the club went on a record winless run, replaced Flitcroft with the academy manager, Chris Brass, and seemed content with blooding a few youngsters and finishing bottom of the division.

However, results improved around the turn of the year, they signed basically any player they could get their hands on, then they somehow managed to lure Lee Clark from a job at Kilmarnock to help them out of the relegation zone. Two games into Clark’s tenure, and Bury have had two wins to help them out of the relegation zone and now seem to have some real momentum behind them.

Bury currently have the division’s second top-scorer in their ranks in the form of James Vaughan, who has missed the past few games but could be fit for this one. They also have beanpole centre-forward Tom Pope in attack who has proved a pretty effective foil for Vaughan in attack this season. A 38 year-old Ryan Lowe scored the winner for Bury in their most game against Charlton, while there’s also the sprightly youngster George Miller who’s proving to be an effective attacking option from the bench, with five goals to his name this season.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

In the middle of the park, Jacob Mellis has proven a useful creative outlet this season with five assists and offers both drive from a central midfield position and composure on the ball. Also in midfield, Callum Styles, born in the year 2000, and Scott Burgess have emerged as bright prospects in recent months. While winger Danny Mayor could be available for selection after returning from injury recently.

Bury boast some useful experience in defence in the form of Antony Kay and Leon Barnett, who’ve been used as part of a back-three recently. That change in system has allowed the impressive Greg Leigh at left wing-back greater freedom to demonstrate his attacking instincts, while the recent addition of former Birmingham City talisman Paul Caddis provides Bury with further quality from right wing-back. Additionally, Bury have added Joe Murphy to play in goal to provide them with additional quality and experience at the back.

Prediction

Bury’s recent form, and the possibility that they could select the division’s second top-scorer tonight, should render them pretty heavy favourites for this game. Russell Slade has made noises this week about wanting to stay beyond the end of the season, but failing to win either of these next two games should really be grounds for sacking, even though that it would be unlikely affect our hopes of staying up.

All signs point towards a Bury win, I’m guessing it will be 2-0.

Preview: Swindon Town

An absolutely vital win over Gillingham last week has given us the faintest signs of life in our survival prospects. Realistically though, we need to back that win up with another in this upcoming game against Swindon, and at least one more win in the two games following this one, to provide genuine hope that we can claw our way out of this mess.

Gillingham were probably the ideal opponents for us to beat last week, not only were they lacking confidence but they were simultaneously poor in preventing and dealing with crosses into the box, that led to both our goals. Even then, it still required a 45-minute display of desperate, backs-to-the-wall defending to hold onto a narrow win, which underlines the need to make further improvements if we want to put together a run of victories.

That being said, the first-half showing was fairly encouraging in demonstrating the work-rate and commitment of this limited side we had. The 4-3-3 formation Russell Slade deployed was a fairly risky move in that it left two inexperienced full-backs vulnerable from time-to-time, but that was made up for, in the opening 45 minutes, by an energetic midfield performance that allowed the front three to get into good goalscoring positions, and being able to take their chances.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

With Stuart Beavon, and several others, returning to contention for this game against Swindon, Russell Slade has something of a selection dilemma on his hands. A front three of Kwame Thomas, George Thomas and Marcus Tudgay was effective against Gillingham, but it’s feels hard to describe any of those players as reliable performers yet. Beavon’s evident lack of fitness might see that forward-line stay in place, although Jodi Jones has been pushing for a start with recent performances, and his pace could prove effective against a possession-hungry Swindon side.

Elsewhere, there’s a question of whether to shoe-horn captain Jordan Willis back into the side somewhere. Nathan Clarke and Jordan Turnbull put in, respectively, one of their best performances for the club in central defence last week and it would be unncecessary to disrupt that. Slade may feel that Willis will be best deployed at right-back, just to provide height and solidity, however, that would take away what was an effective outlet in Dion Kelly-Evans, who seems to be improving with each game. An unchanged team seems like it would make the best sense.

Last Time We Met

As confident as many are feeling about this game, our record against Swindon in recent years should sound a significant note of caution. In our last nine meetings against them, we’ve picked up just three points, and have had a habit of conceding goals in the final minutes of the game against them.

Our last game against Swindon, on the opening day of the season, played out like many of our previous encounters against them. On okay performance on our part with little to pick between the two sides, only for Swindon to score a decisive goal in the final minutes to secure the points. We’re going to have to end the hoodoo for this upcoming match.

How Are They Doing?

It’s been a difficult and directionless season from Swindon Town, who have struggled for form or any sense of momentum for much of the campaign. That hasn’t been helped by a ridiculous situation regarding the identity of the actual manager of the club, with Head Coach Luke Williams nominally in that position but Director of Football Tim Sherwood playing a big role in signing players, as well as picking who plays.

That being said, Sherwood’s presence at the club helped Swindon to make some significant moves in the January transfer market, notably in bringing both Nicky Ajose and Ben Gladwin back to the club on loan. Further quality was added via an array of Chelsea loanees such as Charlie Colkett and Fankaty Dabo, along with several Brighton youngsters who conspicuously had spent time earlier in their careers with Chelsea, such as Rohan Ince.

Swindon’s biggest issue this season has been the lack of a credible goal threat, with their top-scorer position currently being shared between three players on just three goals. Nicky Ajose’s return to the club should be a big boost to their goals scored column, however, he’s struggled to replicate last season’s form since being signed by Russell Slade at Charlton, who couldn’t find a consistent role for him in his side. While Ajose offers little else other than a penalty-area presence, Jon Obika and Luke Norris can do more outside of the box, although neither have been able to do so on a regular-basis this season.

Possible Line-Up

Possible Line-Up

As you would expect from Swindon, they boast a number of tidy, ball-playing midfielders in their ranks. Yaser Kasim has been one of the best midfielders in this division for a number of years and could tear us apart if we stand off him and allow him time and space to operate in. So too could Ben Gladwin, who struggled to make the step up to the Championship, but is clearly a class above at this level. Others to watch out for include Charlie Colkett and John Goddard, as well as the more robust Rohan Ince, who played for Brighton Under-23s at the Ricoh Arena last month in the Checkatrade Trophy – without note.

Elsewhere, Swindon’s defence has been fairly decent this season, despite lacking outstanding individuals. Right-back/sweeper Nathan Thompson is adept at bringing the ball out of defence, as well as making the sort of niggly fouls that break up attacks. Lawrence Vigouroux in goal is one of those erratic young keepers that can either win or lose you a game depending on what kind of mood their in. Swindon’s wing-backs will look to stretch the game, and their success in getting forward could decide the contest.

Prediction

Swindon are one the rarest of beasts in League One, a team with less experience than us who we can physically intimidate. However, we’re going to need to press with intelligence as Swindon’s passing game has the potential to leave us chasing shadows as holes open up in our defence. With players like Nicky Ajose, Yaser Kasim and Ben Gladwin in their ranks, they could really tear us apart if they hit their stride.

Whether we’re able to disrupt Swindon or whether they find their groove, this is unlikely to be a fun game to watch from a Coventry City perspective. I’m worried that we lack the presence in the middle of the pitch to really throw Swindon off-rhythm, so it’s about whether they can convert their likely dominance of the game into goals. Hedging my bets here, I’m calling this a 1-1 draw.

What Difference Has Slade Made?

10 league games in to Russell Slade’s reign and we’ve finally managed a league victory, and although survival seems like a long distance away, it seems worth asking the question now whether Slade has actually improved the team and ultimately, whether we can expect further improvements between now and the end of the season.

10 league games is a good point to assess Russell Slade’s reign, as it’s more-or-less, the same amount as Tony Mowbray and Mark Venus had in charge – well, exactly the same amount as Mowbray, Venus had 12 games in charge. It allows us to take a look at how did the best with the squad, and who might be most accountable when relegation happens (aside from the owners, but this article isn’t about that).

The concisest way to look at this is to count how many points we’ve earned under each manager. Mowbray and Slade both took six points from the ten games they had in charge, while Mark Venus’ spell saw us take 13 points from 12 games. In that regard, Venus has been our best manager this season by some distance.

However, that doesn’t take into account underlying performances. There have been several occasions this season where it’s felt like we haven’t taken what we’ve deserved from games, while we’ve also helped ourselves to a few wins that we didn’t really have a right to, such is football. So the question then is which of our managers got performances that deserved to win games.

To calculate this I’ve taken the difference between the shots on target we’ve had in games versus the shots on target we’ve conceded. The games in which we’ve had more than one shot on target compared to our opponents is deemed a game we should have won, any game where it’s been even or one either way is deemed to have been a game we should have drawn.

It’s not a perfect metric to calculate whether a team deserved to win a game, considering that an effort that trickles into a keeper’s arms is considered a shot on target while a sitter smashed onto the post is considered not to have been on target. However, over a period of several games, it goes some way to representing how well a team has played.

Shot Difference Under Each Manager

Shot Difference Under Each Manager

During Mowbray’s ten games in charge, we should have taken eleven points. In particular, the Northampton and Shrewsbury home games both deserved wins, considering we took four and three extra shots on target than our opponents. We over-performed under Mark Venus, taking 13 points when we deserved 11. We’ve also over-performed under Slade, taking six points when we’ve only deserved three.

That stat should be particularly concerning regarding our chances for survival. We’ve consistently been out-shot by our opponents, and, by metric, we haven’t actually deserved to win a game under Slade. If we are to find the eight or nine wins we realistically need to survive under Slade, we’re going to have to improve by a significant amount.

Those stats also show how costly our inability to convert chances into goals under Tony Mowbray have been for our survival prospects. Overall, we should be on 35 points, which isn’t great, but would have meant we would currently be outside the relegation zone.

It’s a philosophical question more than anything. Is it better to be consistently unlucky in football, or is it better to nick points that you don’t deserve?

Over the short-term, it is probably good to be able to scrape results from bad performances, which is maybe a reason to be somewhat encouraged by Slade’s football. However, luck tends to even out over a longer period and you need to make sure you’re putting the odds in your favour.

Some other interesting shots stats to point out in comparing our three managers this season is looking at the individual attacking and defensive performances. Mowbray managed 0.6 goals per game, Venus 1.1 and Slade a round 1 goal per game. Not getting a goalscorer in early in the season seems to have been one of the biggest reasons why we didn’t get the points we deserved under Mowbray and thus, why we’re struggling now.

Attacking and Defensive Performances Under Our Three Managers

Attacking and Defensive Performances Under Our Three Managers

In terms of the amount of shots overall we’ve had per game, Mowbray managed 12.5, Venus 13.5 and Slade sticking out with just 7.2. However, we’ve been far more clinical under Slade than Mowbray or Venus, nearly 40% of the shots we’ve taken under Slade have been on target, which is nearly 10% better than both Mowbray and Venus, and 36% of the shots on target we’ve had under Slade have gone in, more than double what it was under Mowbray. This is probably why we took more points than we’ve deserved under Slade and why we didn’t under Mowbray, by creating better quality chances and then going on to take them.

Defensively though, we’ve gotten worse with each manager. Mowbray’s team conceded 1.2 goals per game, while Slade has us conceding a costly 1.9 per game – which is significant considering we’re only averaging one goal per game. For a defensive manager, that should have been where Slade made a real difference and if he’d been better able to tighten our defence. On the other hand, if we can quickly improve defensively, we have a formula for survival given our clinical nature in front of goal since Slade’s arrival.

Ultimately, Slade’s arrival has seen us become a worse team – we create fewer chances and we’re incredibly leaky defensively. We would do well not to read too much into the win over Gillingham, a game that could easily have lost given the number of chances we conceded. We’ve been a team that’s pretty much deserved to be around the relegation zone all season and we’ve gotten worse.

If we do survive, it would be truly remarkable, and not just because of our position in the division. On the bright side, there is a formula for survival, it just depends on our defence being able to consistently hold firm.