Home hoodoo banished, but City still struggling to fire - Interview
Wednesday, 29th Dec 2021 16:16 by Clive Whittingham
Bristol City have finally worked out how to win at home, but with just four victories since their Loftus Road smash and grab it's been a frustrating season of false starts thus far according to @DaveFevs @FevsFootball
Form not great, just four wins in 15 since the victory at Loftus Road, how’s the team playing at the moment? What should we expect from City?
Back in September, although you were all over us, you caught us with probably our strongest 18-man squad available and we were able to bring Semenyo off the bench and Wells to score and gain an unlikely win. Since then we’ve had to battle through with annoying injuries, and losing King, James and Williams from midfield left us exposed. That played out in results and performances as we dropped down from the heady heights of ninth at the October international break. We weren’t deserving of that position and we dropped down the table with defeats to Bournemouth and West Brom. Ok, no surprises, but it was the manner of those defeats. We’d looked competitive in every game up to that point and suddenly we looked yards off what was needed.
To answer your question, expect the unexpected, we are consistently inconsistent. We have had to use the youngsters more than expected, but in fairness they’ve all put in good shifts, but they can’t perform week in week out. Massengo at 20 was great at your place but had a niggly injury and then a poor run of form, so we just brought even younger players in. Alex Scott (18) and Ayman Benarous (18) have both contributed to those long-awaited home wins. Scott is an England U-19 regular, when virtually all of that squad come from Premier League clubs and is a fantastic talent. He’s been playing right wing back when he is really a ball-playing midfielder, but he’s got a good football brain and has done fine.
Bristol City league results…
You have finally ended that run without a win at home now, and put three of those on the board – anything changed to bring that about?
We had Joe Williams fit for a couple of them, and if we can get him fit (again) and keep him fit he will make a huge difference. The return of Matty James, Callum O’Dowda and the powerful Antoine Semenyo (21) up-top has given us a different dimension, but our defence is prone to too many mistakes. The back three we used for the first time at Loftus Road has now become the default system, although following last week’s loss at home to Huddersfield I do wonder whether Nige might go back to a back four over Christmas. It’s been less “three wise men” more “the good, the bad and the ugly”. So, Warburton will be left guessing.
Nigel Pearson’s position and popularity currently?
I don’t think he’s under any threat at all, although some fans do. I think a lot of fans have found the football tough to watch. It’s been pretty direct, but with a few players back, we’ve passed it more in recent games. So I don’t think he’s hugely popular, but my view is that he’s doing a great deal of “other stuff” as part of our rebuild and he’s laying foundations, and it won’t be until the summer where we start to see the fruits of his labour and experience. He took over with the club in a bit of a mess. The outside world see City as a well-run club, but we are expecting huge losses for 20/21 and that constrained Nige in the summer.
Any rumours for January? What’s needed?
No rumours, finances dictate that we are likely to be looking for players of the ilk of Atkinson (from Oxford) and Tanner (from Carlisle), maybe the odd loan. Dembele (Peterborough) currently getting some traffic on our Forum (OTIB – One Team in Bristol). The bigger debate is whether Kasey Palmer, Nahki Wells, Jay Dasilva and Taylor Moore might be moved on during the window. Do you fancy Nahki back? He’s rarely started this season, and now looked out of form. I’m not sure that it will create much wiggle room for transfers although reducing the wage bill would be a big benefit.
If Nige is gonna persist with a back three, then we need a right sided Centre-Back. We need a striker, talk that it needs to be a target-man, but I’m not convinced. Weimann has nine goals and four assists from predominately deeper positions, and Semenyo is looking a handful and I don’t think Barbet will enjoy him roaming into that inside right channel, he’s a bit of a beast.
Ins: >>> Rob Atkinson, 22, CB, Oxford, £1.6m >>> George Tanner, 21, RB, Carlisle, Undisclosed >>> Matty James, 29, CM, Leicester, Free >>> Andy King, 32, CM, Leicester, Leuven, Free >>>
Outs: >>> Adam Nagy, 26, CM, Pisa, Undisclosed >>> Tommy Rowe, 32, LM, Doncaster, Free >>> Famara Diedhiou, 28, CF, Alanyaspor, Free >>> Jack Hunt, 30, RB, Sheff Wed, Free >>> Henri Lansbury, 30, CM, Luton, Free >>> Liam Walsh, 23, CM, Swansea, Free >>> Hakeeb Adelakun, 25, RW, Lincoln, Free >>> Joe Woollacott, 24, GK, Swindon, Free >>> Marley Watkins, 30, RW, Cardiff, Free >>> Adrian Mariappa, 34, CB, Released >>> Jamie Paterson, 29, AM, Swansea, Free >>> Zac Smith, 20, CM, Released >>> Rene Gilmartin, 34, GK, Retired >>> Taylor Moore, 24, CB, Hearts, Loan
Strongest performers and weakest links?
Tomas Kalas’s performances (in the main) and Andreas Weimann’s goal contributions have been key, even if Weimann’s form has been inconsistent. Not forgetting Alex Scott, mentioned earlier.
Zak Vyner has made mistakes since coming back in at RCB, having been steady at RB early season. Chris Martin is now looking less effective up top, whether that is form or fatigue as he’s started every game.
Overall we are not that special a squad so too many players have been much of a muchness.
Revised expectations for the season?
I said middle eight at the start of the season, and I still see that, although I think we will be at the bottom end of that bunch. I don’t see a relegation battle, we have enough about us to pick up results, and we are eight points clear of 22nd placed Peterborough. The transfer window will be interesting, if only to point is in the direction of how much work there is still to do.
The Twitter @loftforwords, @fevsfootball
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When Saturday Comes #23 by wessex_exile
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When Saturday Comes #22 by wessex_exile
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When Saturday Comes #21 by wessex_exile
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When Saturday Comes #20 by wessex_exile
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When Saturday Comes #19 by wessex_exile
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