Sold short and gaping holes – the nightmare transfer window Coventry City must avoid

There is a lot to debate about what Coventry City need to get right this summer. There is just as much to say from our collective experience over the last few years about what not to get wrong, the pitfalls to avoid and mistakes they can’t afford to repeat.

It is Doug King’s second summer transfer window in charge, as it is for head of recruitment, Dean Austin, and his team and there is a lot of trust being placed in them to pull everything together. So, with two signings already in the bag and talks well underway about the rest, here is the anti-bible for the next two-and-a-half months to take us up to deadline day.

No-one is expecting the Sky Blues to spend as much as last summer, when ten new signings came in amid 14 departures, but manager Mark Robins has stated that City’s business will ‘not be insignificant’ as he looks to add strength, quality and a few more bodies to his squad.

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It goes without saying that the players you bring in have to be good but a big signing gone wrong in particular is a millstone for everyone.

A big signing that goes right – even like spending a relatively modest £1.2m on Tatsuhiro Sakamoto, in the context of a Championship club without parachute payments, perhaps – fills everyone with hope and optimism as the club strives to get to the next level and bridge the gap to the Premier League.

Numbers game

Mark Robins made no secret of the fact that his squad lacked strength, depth and numbers when it mattered most at the tail end of last season when injuries and a congested fixture list brought about by a sensational FA Cup run conspired to derail the club’s push for the play-offs.

The squad, which regularly included a couple of untried youngsters making up the bench, struggled to pick up points in routine league fixtures that should have edged them closer to a top six place as the campaign reached its climax. That cannot be allowed to happen again.

Sometimes luck plays a part and a mounting injury list can be crippling, but in this case City were just short on bodies. There’s a balance to be struck, of course, and Robins won’t want too many because that can bring its own problems with keeping quality players happy. But he must have enough quality cover to get through every eventuality, including a sustained push for the play-offs.

No gaping holes

Last summer’s high turnover of players saw the club forced to act in a reactive way in the market. Losing star quality like Viktor Gyokeres and Gustavo Hamer enabled City to reinvest and restock a new-look squad with added quality, and that was certainly done with the arrival of Ellis Simms and Haji Wright – both of whom hit 19 goals in all competitions to fill the goal void left by the Sweden international.

However, the failure to replace Hamer with a similarly dynamic midfielder – albeit not the easiest to find – came back to bite City on the backside. Victor Torp was added in January but even the manager has admitted that he was one for this summer, really, with the midfielder needing time to acclimatise and adjust to the rigours of the Championship.

Elsewhere, City ended up being light on the right wing and at right-back where Sakamoto and Milan van Ewijk had little or no direct competition or cover. That came to a head when Sakamoto’s season was over due to a serious back injury and Van Ewijk asked to push forward, leaving Joel Latibeaudiere – a centre-back by trade – to deputise at full-back.

Most managers strive to have two players competing for every position on the pitch but last season saw Robins having to make do and mend on far too many occasions.

Coventry City's Milan van Ewijk (left) and Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes
Coventry City's Tatsuhiro Sakamoto was one of the club's big successes from last summer's transfer window

Building for the Premier League

There’s no doubt that City have gone up a level in terms of the types of players they are now looking to recruit and able to attract, with half an eye on promotion. Gone are the days when the club are in the market for experienced journeymen on free transfers; the likes of Martyn Waghorn, with all due respect, who came in to do a job at that stage of the team’s evolution which, at that time, was all about gaining a foothold in the division rather than pushing for a top six finish.

Now’s the time to sign a younger breed of player capable of developing and growing alongside the club’s ambitions; the likes of Ben Sheaf who has got better and better since dropping down a league from Arsenal and now looks every bit ready to step back up again, preferably with the Sky Blues. Not everyone will stay the distance but, certainly, the likes of Sakamoto, Van Ewijk, Bobby Thomas, Simms and Wright – to name just five – look capable of bridging the gap when the time comes.

Holding onto the crown jewels

Losing top players is never easy. But it’s a reality for most clubs outside the top six of the Premier League in this country, and even some of those are being forced into sales for the sake of profit and sustainability rules. City have proved that there is life after the likes of Gyokeres and Hamer, and are now facing up to losing another influential operator in Callum O’Hare, who appears set to leave at the end of his contract this month.

But it would be a real body blow if another star man went again this summer, with all eyes currently on Sheaf’s future. The central midfielder is a crucial cog in the team and the Sky Blues should try to keep him at all costs. He still has two years left on his contract but why not get him signed up on a new and improved deal to secure his services and ensure the captain-elect leads the club onwards and upwards.

There’s been reported interest in the ambitious 26-year-old who will hopefully fulfil those at the CBS Arena. A reluctant summer sale is the alternative, which would leave the team severely weakened in that department – an area of the pitch that assistant manager Adi Viveash maintains has consistently been the strongest in all the time he’s been at the club.

That’s not to say they Sky Blues couldn’t recover from his loss, but another big sale would need some really focused recruitment to replace him, and it would feel like City would be starting from square one all over again. Selling players is part and parcel of football but the club cannot keep taking one step forwards, only to go two back.

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