As 2015 draws to a close, we find ourselves in a wonderfully positive position. Fourth in the league, with just one defeat in 3 months. That may include a few too many draws, but overall, things are poised very nicely for the remaining games.
The problem with supporting a football team is that it’s such an impulsive experience. Imagine what it must be like to be a player or manager. Have a bad game and you’re immediately judged as “clueless”, or “shit”. Have a great performance and apparently you’re bound for the Premier League. Ask Reice Charles-Cook about that last one.
If you remember last season I had a go at gathering player ratings after every game. That seemed to offer some clarity about the full term, showing that Ryan Haynes actually had quite a good campaign and was possibly prematurely judged after only a couple of poor showings.
The aim behind collecting these ratings is to delve a little deeper into the broader opinion of Coventry City fans about how individuals are performing match-by-match, coming up with an overall assessment in a more cumulative way. We’re so quick to dismiss the good that players do, it often goes forgotten come the end of the season once we’re asking ourselves who has played well and who hasn’t.
Below I’ve knocked together a selection of charts based on the player ratings after each game this season. But first, here are the scores on the doors..
We’ve actually done well to keep a large number of players on the pitch for the majority of games this season. Maddison, Turner and Johnson appear high up in the table as they’ve all performed when they’ve been in the team, but availability has restricted their playing time.
John Fleck on the other hand has played plenty and continues to control matches and impress alongside the less flashy Vincelot. He’s also the only player to have played over 20 games with an average rating of over 7.00.
His quality and influence cannot be understated. When he combines with Romain, we’re a better team.
The caveat that comes with this data is that it’s actually based on qualitative reasoning. In other words, at its heart it’s still just conjecture and driven in many ways by favouritism. Players like James Maddison could play exactly the same as Jim O’Brien, but he’s younger, more attractive to look at, and will often draw a higher rating, or receive more grace when he underperforms.
That said, not everyone is quite so impressionable so my hope is that the cumulative effect of this data should still ultimately ring true and give a strong indication of the performance levels of players.
Maddison may not have played much this season, but when he’s been on the pitch, he’s been noticeable and impactful.
Conversely, a player who has received a decent chunk of time on the pitch but who’s having very little positive impact is Mark Antoine-Fortuné. It has to be said that many of his rated appearances have been from the bench, but ten minutes is still more than enough time to influence fans into bumping you a higher rating if you bring something to the team. For all Fortuné’s game time, he’s rarely making a positive impression on the game.
Of course, this always has to be balanced against the noise that surrounds him. “He’s a bad player” – that’s the label that accompanies him at the moment, so will always colour fan opinion before he’s even started. But as we saw with his performance against Shrewsbury, if he plays well, he’s rewarded.
No real surprise here given the nature of our team, and the nature of football in general. Make a mistake as an attacker, and all can be forgiven if you then go on to set up or score a goal. Make a mistake as a defender and you’ll look like a wally and potentially cost your team a goal, but even a faultless display afterwards is unlikely to erase the mistake from the memory. It’s harder to redeem yourself as a defender as the opportunities to do so are less sexy.
Dominant and noticeable goalscoring centre-backs Réda Johnson and Ben Turner have caught the eye, even if they haven’t competed in the full quota of games. Beyond those two, you have wade through the raft of attacking players before you find goalkeeper Reice Charles-Cook and Chris Stokes with their 6.50ish averages. Strong enough performances, but not enough to oust the fancy footwork of the strikers and the people grabbing the goals.
Captain Sam Ricketts too has played pretty much every game, but has only been considered in the solid mid six range.
While Fortuné might be feeling the effects of negative fan perception, you’d imagine Joe Cole will have been afforded plenty of goodwill to date. The data doesn’t seem to reflect this potential favouritism however as his ratings show a different, and actually reasonable assessment of his play.
Big name signing means big name expectation, and in all honesty we’re still waiting for that expectation to be met.
Languishing at the base of the table is Conor Thomas who is having a very hard time of it. Afforded very few opportunities, he’s struggling to convince fans with some poor showings when he does make it onto the grass.
He’s now taken the decision to go under the knife meaning he’s got no chance to redeem himself this season.
No impact plus opportunity to fight for his place means it’s very unlikely young Conor will be with us next season.
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One thing that’s also useful from this data is that it allows us to get a feel for how the entire team has played in each game. The chart below shows the average team rating for each match this season (ignoring Yeovil as we didn’t get ratings for that pigsear of a Tuesday night).
What this seems to suggest is some inconsistency of performance levels. What you’d hope to see of a team heading for promotion is a reasonably straight line of impressive performances to map against the unbeaten run we’re on. I think we can all be honest, our performances in the last month or so haven’t necessarily matched the results we’ve achieved.
We’ve had clusters of good form, but the blips seem to be far more frequent than I’d anticipated. The aim for the new year has to be to reduce these drops and bring about a concerted run of high-quality performances.
Of course, maybe we’re simply not capable of doing it over the course of a few games. Maybe we’ve been blinded a little bit by the results and our very best performances. But the team has reached such peaks so far this campaign, the aspiration has to be replicate our best levels on a even more regular basis than we’re doing so far. If we’re capable of such quality in one game, there’s little to explain why this couldn’t be applied more regularly.
High standards maybe, but the high standards that are needed in order to see us promoted. We’re never going to stumble across success. We’re going to have to make it happen ourselves.
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