Coventry City were League One champions last season thanks to the division’s sternest defensive record. The team kept fourteen clean sheets from thirty-four games, only lost three times, and only once by more than a single goal. Put simply, this was a team that enjoyed defending.
Central to Coventry City’s defensive record last season was a back three formed of three Scots, with the experienced Kyle McFadzean flanked by Michael Rose on the right and Dominic Hyam on the left. With the latter two being relatively young and having developed at an impressive rate over the past two seasons or so, they are both players who are likely to to be on Steve Clarke’s radar for the Scottish national team over the coming year.
Michael Rose probably has the bigger profile in Scotland out of the two, having been named in the Scottish Championship Team of the Year two years ago while at Ayr United. Snapped up after a scouting mission for Lawrence Shankland, Rose quickly justified the club’s decisiveness in bringing him in by seamlessly settling into the team right from the first minute of last season. Dundee-born Reading academy graduate, Dominic Hyam was initially signed as defensive cover after Coventry City’s relegation into League Two but slowly worked his way into the starting line-up towards the end of that promotion-winning campaign. Hyam truly blossomed the following season – winning the club’s Player of the Year award – and continued that from with another solid campaign last time out.
Both Rose and Hyam are centre-backs who read the game well and are thus more likely to snuff danger out via an interception rather than by having to make more eye-catching last-ditch manoeuvres. Furthermore, both are very comfortable with the ball at their feet, which has helped Coventry City move towards a possession-based style of play and thus enhanced the team’s defensive record as a means of preventing the opposition getting on the ball. Of the two, Michael Rose is the better ball-player. Initially, Rose was slightly over-eager in looking to play long, raking passes in attempts to open up the play, but he has developed that side of his game over the past year to focus on more efficient ways to bring the ball out of defence. Whether that is via a quick, cutting forward pass into the striker’s feet or carrying the ball into midfield, Rose became the go-to centre-back last season for distributing the ball. Dominic Hyam is the kind of centre-back that you probably won’t notice if you only watch one or two Coventry City games. He is so understated in his defensive qualities that it can take time to figure out what he does that is so good. Incredibly consistent and calm, Hyam’s positioning was why he was entrusted by Mark Robins to take on the difficult role of playing on the left-side of a back three of three right-footers.
For both, the doubt against them at this stage in their development is whether they are quite aggressive enough to truly make their presence known at the heart of a defence. It is no coincidence that the team was most solid defensively when utilising a central defensive three, rather than a two, last year. The third-man in that trio, Kyle McFadzean, offered the assertiveness that Hyam and Rose lacked when played in a duo.
Going a little deeper into the nuances of their weaker points, Michael Rose can be a little susceptible against genuinely quick players when isolated in one-on-one situations. As for Hyam, it is against more physical attackers that can sometimes cause him problems. For both Hyam and Rose, the step-up to the Championship comes at the right juncture in their careers. Towards the end of last season, they were more than comfortable dealing with the best that League One could throw at them. Now is the time to work on those aforementioned deficiencies against opponents that can test them on a weekly basis.
Any talk of an international call-up is possibly slightly premature for either player. However, if either or both can replicate their League One form in the Championship over the course of 10-15 games, that will be when the moment to include them in the conversation. As for who has greater potential, Dominic Hyam has a quiet composure about him and an ability to
learn that could see him continue to progress based on the challenge in front of him. However, Michael Rose’s greater physical presence and range of passing marks him out as someone who could establish himself as one of the better defenders at Championship level in the near future.