The Breaking News from Ashton Gate tonight is that former Leicester City and Watford Manager Nigel Pearson has been appointed as Manager of Bristol City with a contract until the end of the season.
With the club currently sat in 15th place in the Championship, after loosing their last six league matches, the club is in free fall and in desperate need of the change. There is a multitude of tasks needed to be completed to turn the club, who in the past three seasons have flirted with the play-offs, around. Here is what should be at the top of Pearson’s list.
- Stop the rot
The single most important reason of why Owner Steve Lansdown has payed the big bucks for Pearson is to keep the club in the second tier. Sat only 10 points above the relegation zone, for the first time since 2017, The Robins are looking behind them rather than up. Club Captain Tomas Kalas admitted this in his post-match interview after Saturday’s 1-0 home loss to Barnsley, as well as owner Lansdown on BBC Bristol last Monday night.
The next few matches for the Ashton Gate club seem damning. Away trips to promotion chasing Middlesbrough and Swansea City come before a home tie against Bournemouth. City have won five of their last seven trips to the Riverside Stadium, however it seems that Pearson will not be in charge for that fixture.
A home fixture to QPR on March 6th looks to e the next realistic points available.
2. Attacking football
We’re not asking to play like Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, or 2020 Bayern Munich, cause a lot less would entice a City fan right now. 0.03 XG at home to Barnsley is appalling. In the past four league matches, the Reds have had four shots on target. One in each match. 17 shots in total. A shot every 21 minutes of football, with the likes of Famara Diediou, Nahki Wells and Kasey Palmer to call upon is down right embarrassing. The seasons total XG of 0.83 is the lowest in the league, below bottom side Wycombe Wanderers by 0.46.
In parallel to the abysmal form, the forward players have lost all form which has squeezed the last morsel of confidence they have in themselves. The clubs identity in attack has been lost for almost three years now, and anything more than a tactic or blueprint to get up the pitch will be welcomed by every fan.
3. Make Ashton Gate a tough place to play
Ever since Ryan Bennet netted a 96th minute winner at Ashton Gate for Wolves in December 2017, the home form for Bristol City has been anything short of good. Since that game against Wolves, the Reds have played 72 home league matches, only to come out victorious on 26 occasions. In terms of overall points, out of the 216 available, the Robins have only picked up 103. The 1.4 points per game in shade of three years is equal to the same statistic for this season. Again compare that to Bournemouth, who currently stand in the last play-off position, the Cherries pick up 2 points per home game. Over a season in the Championship, that 0.6 points differential translates to an extra 13 points. With the Reds sat 10 points away from 6th place, that is something that Pearson will be needed to fix
4. Player Contracts
I will be honest, I do not know how much authority Pearson will have over the next few months regarding Player contracts. For a mixture of only a short term contract and Mark Ashton having his fingers in every pie possible, it seems that player contracts are almost a taboo subject at the moment.
The Diedhiou contract is still unsigned although apparently being offered a large deal, which Ashton is happy to tell SkySports commentators about his plans to run the Senegalese strikers contract down, but not the local press or probably the forward himself.
He has come out earlier this season to sat that the contacts will be done near the end of the season after the finances are more clear from the effects of COVID. This has however seemed to damn the likes of Liam Walsh and in my opinion Jamie Paterson more on weather they will still be at the club next season.
Sure, a large clear out of the squad is needed, but the likes of Jack Hunt, Nathan Baker, Henri Lansbury, Tommy Rowe and Hakeeb Adelakun all see their contracts end in June, but most still have some market value. To add to this, if the club are to loose 8 or so players for free this summer, Mark Ashton and hopefully Nigel Pearson will have a tough task brining in the same amount of players for free, who more importantly improve the squad.
5. Sign a long term contract and get his team in
Not in my life has Bristol City appointed a manager with such pedigree and experience as Nigel Pearson. At the moment it is only a short term contract, and in his own words, “I sincerely hope this will be the start of a positive journey for all of us.” This doesn’t need to be examined more to see that he, at this time, is targeting a longer stay in BS3, and almost every City fan will be hoping for the same. His time at Leicester City shows what the man can do with the correct backing and set up, and lets hope that Lansdown and Ashton give in both the backing and responsibility.
In the most nicest way possible, I hope Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dumb or Keith Downing and Paul Simpson, leave the club. Pearson does not need some youth team coaches in his way, what he needs is his own team. Craig Shakespeare would ovbiously be a dream to have as number-two but what is imperative is that someone comes in that knows the ‘Pearson way.’
Overall, it may not be the best time to be a Bristol City fan, but hope is on the horizon, and when I come back to this in June, if all five of these are completed then, it will be ‘Viva Bristol City’ and were answering the phone to the Premier League!