Ben Sheaf has joined Coventry City on a season-long loan with a £750,000 option to buy, so what sort of player are they getting?

Ben Sheaf playing against Gillingham with Doncaster Rovers (Photo by Shibu Preman/AHPIX)
Ben Sheaf playing against Gillingham with Doncaster Rovers (Photo by Shibu Preman/AHPIX)

Sheaf spent last season on loan with Doncaster Rovers where he was somewhat of a divisive figure amongst fans. That being said, he seemed to do enough to impress the management, playing 38 times and now Arsenal have confirmed he will spent the season on loan with Coventry.

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According to the Nuneaton Telegraph [hardcopy] at the start of August, Arsenal were open to letting the 22-year-old leave permanently for a six-figure sum. That could be anything between £100,000 and £999,999 but the amount agreed with Coventry City is said to be further towards the top end at £750,000 for his option and he’s only going on loan, initially anyway.

Nuneaton Telegraph, 8 August 2020
Nuneaton Telegraph, 8 August 2020

It was first reported there were two clubs vying for Sheaf’s signature but Coventry very quickly became the only team seriously linked and an official announcement was expected.

Sheaf has two first team appearances for Arsenal after signing for the club as a teenager from West Ham.

Coventry boss, the former Manchester United player Mark Robbins, is apparently a big fan of Sheaf’s, who can also play as a centreback.

“We’re very pleased to announce Ben’s arrival at the club,” Robins said, speaking to the club’s official website.

Ben Sheaf with Coventry (ia Coentry City)
Ben Sheaf with Coventry (ia Coentry City)

“He’s a player with great pedigree and ability, who will really add to our squad for the Championship season ahead. He’s got a good physical presence and a footballing brain as well, and will be a real asset for us during the campaign.

“We thank Arsenal for agreeing to loan Ben to us, and look forward to working with him.”

Sheaf will wear squad number 14.

Sheaf is represented by the same agency responsible for getting former Arsenal youngster, Stephy Mavididi, to Juventus.

Ben Sheaf Season 19/20 Review with Doncaster Rovers fansite

First published 27 June 2020 on DailyCannon.com, written by Into The Empty Net

Whilst Sheaf has been a divisive figure among fans at times, it’s easy to judge that he has had a successful tenure with the club. That is perhaps underlined by the fact he played by far the most games of our eight loan players in 2019/20.

Ben Sheaf with Doncaster Rovers (Photo via Twitter)
Ben Sheaf with Doncaster Rovers (Photo via Twitter)

The decision to curtail the League One season without finishing the campaign means Ben Sheaf has played the last game of his loan spell with Doncaster Rovers.

His 38 appearances in all competitions is an impressive number and has given him great experience at a competitive level which will stand him in good stead for the future as he tries to break into the Arsenal first team.

The midfielder started all but four of Doncaster’s League One games this season and quickly became an important member of the squad, taking on a difficult job where he had to balance attacking and defensive duties more so than any of his teammates.

Ben joined Doncaster in the summer to fill the gap left by another successful Premier League loanee, Liverpool’s Herbie Kane. However, where Kane was more of a box-to-box midfielder affecting play from an advanced position, new manager Darren Moore wanted Ben to function as more of a central defensive presence, albeit one who could get about the pitch and support attacking sequences.

The key to this role was Ben’s midfield partnership with club captain Ben Whiteman. Acting as the two in a 4-2-3-1 formation, the pair would frequently alternate between operating as a playmaker and as covering support, developing a quick, easy chemistry to drive the team on. When one broke forward, the other would stay back and they soon became adept at reading each other’s intent to great effect – illustrated by the fact the pair both finished the season among the top three passers in League One.

Although Ben is by no means a goalscorer, he has proven effective in the attacking third at various points of the season and has two goals to his name. The first – a close-range volley in a 7-1 thumping of Southend – was retroactively recorded as an own goal but this feels harsh as the shot merely deflected off a defender, but there was no doubt about the class on show when he scored a sumptuous curling effort from distance against Gillingham in February, setting himself up with a backheel touch before shooting.

Ben’s ability to get about the pitch and vision in reading the play stand him in good stead for a career at a high level. The importance of his presence in midfield was shown up in a home loss to Sunderland in December, the only league fixture that Darren Moore voluntarily left him out of. Doncaster were overrun in the centre of the park and lacked bite, with Ben’s ability to break up play sorely missed – it is no coincidence the team went on a winning run once he was immediately restored to the starting line-up.

Ben Sheaf (Photo via Doncaster Free Press)
Ben Sheaf (Photo via Doncaster Free Press)

Rovers have been strong at recovering possession in games with Ben’s willingness to do this higher up the pitch a vital part of this. There have however been some concerns over his decision-making and in fact, his performances have been very divisive amongst fans throughout the campaign, which is probably not helped by his laid-back demeanour on the field. Fans at this level tend to expect a lot of blood-and-thunder running and this simply isn’t Ben’s nature, rather he tends to approach games in a steadier manner.

He has a tendency to get caught in possession and can often take too long to pick a pass, but this comes from Ben’s impressive ability to find passing routes that others can’t. His inexperience is likely what lets him down in this area as he has less time on the ball in League One than he had in youth football and it has taken some time to adapt to this, but when he is in his stride his passing is a joy to watch.

Those criticisms have lessened as the season has worn on, and he has by no means been the only target with the manager’s philosophy of building play patiently from the back proving a real learning curve. Above all else, Ben has become a popular figure within the club and we personally here at Into The Empty Net have been fortunate enough to speak to Ben’s family this season about how much he has enjoyed being a Doncaster Rovers player.

Overall, whilst League One is a world away from the top of the Premier League these days, it would be fair to say that Ben Sheaf has all the raw talents to succeed at the top level. His technical ability is excellent, he is physically capable and he also demonstrates a mature approach to the tactical side of the game. The one thing counting against him making it as an Arsenal player now is probably his age, as at 22 years old he probably needs to be closer to the first team to be able to break through.

Ben will need to either be involved with the Arsenal first team next season or else loaned to a team playing at Championship level or better, where I have no doubts he will be able to flourish if allowed to play his natural game in a possession-based side.

If that’s not enough and you still want more, may we point you to Sheaf’s Goal of the Month below this from epic Total Football Analysis on Ben Sheaf:

Ben Sheaf 2019/20 – scout report

Sheaf wins Goal of the Month award with Doncaster Rovers

From the Archives – Originally published 17 March, 2020.

Arsenal loanee Ben Sheaf won Doncaster Rovers’ Goal of the Month award for February, after scoring his first goal in senior football.

Ben Sheaf with Doncaster Rovers (Photo via Twitter)
Ben Sheaf with Doncaster Rovers (Photo via Twitter)

A lot of clubs and competitions are taking the break in football as an opportunity to announce all their goal, manager and player of the month awards for February, and Arsenal’s Ben Sheaf is the latest recipient.

Doncaster Rovers announced that Sheaf had won their Goal of the Month award. He earned 62% of the vote, the highest percentage of any winner this season.

The Tweet with his goal has since been deleted by Doncaster, but you can watch this instead:

It was actually Sheaf’s first goal in senior football. He thought he’d scored for the first time in the 7-1 win against Southend United earlier in the campaign but it went down as an own goal in the end.

Unfortunately, Gillingham turned things around to win the game 2-1. Rovers really shot themselves in the foot that day with a red card and two own goals. It’s nice to see Sheaf getting off the mark anyway.