Does Nigel Pearson know his best Bristol City team, and who should be culled from the team?
After Saturday’s humiliation away to Coventry City, where Bristol City inexcusably lost 3-2 despite having an extra man for over 45 minutes, fans have been and will continue to question both the managerial styling of Nigel Pearson as well as heap more pressure on the players on the pitch.
Whether it was embarrassment or utter rage, every single one of the 3,000+ strong following left the Ricoh Area red faced, having let the lead slip twice in the second half.
It has been a common sight at 2pm on a Saturday when the team is announced to see either a change of formation or at least three changes made to the starting line-up.
In years gone by, during the reign of Lee Johnson, we have been used to the chopping and changing of the team, but fans were vastly more irritated and outraged, joking of LJ using his ‘tombola machine’.
Since the start of the season (and the end of last), Nigel has attempted to play multiple formations, having yet to find a perfect blend to the team. Many fans will comment on the injury situation, missing certain players meaning a shift of style.
Surely that gives us a deep dive into the happening on the club where the club has players from multiple different eras of the club, having to be mashed into one team.
So what is the best formation?
Every time the 4-4-2 has been deployed we been looked absolutely ripped to shreds in the midfield, with gaping holes between the two banks of four. When playing a lone striker, which has been exclusively Chris Martin, has offered nothing in attack. Even then deploying a back five, the football on the pitch is embarrassingly shoddy with no confidence on the ball or when defending.
One way of deciphering what the best team would be, is looking at the spine of the club and who is a permanent starter in the squad.
At the club right now there is three, possibly four players that would be in the vast majority of fans teams. Captain Daniel Bentley, former captain Tomas Kalas and current top scorer Andi Weimann.
Sadly, picking the other eight players on the pitch is a struggle for more than one reason.
Everything and anything that anyone attacks the defence with looks like it will go in or at least end with a goalscoring chance, but the reliable players the club are either on the injury table or looking as confident as the Pope in a brothel.
Centre-backs Nathan Baker and Rob Atkinson have been in and out of the side with injuries and are both indefinitely out due to no communication from the club, so a back four must currently be deployed. With Zak Vyver, who made several mistakes last Saturday, giving away the penalty and his positioning for the winning goal, is the only fit centre half left.
Jay Dasilva looks a mere shadow of the player that he can be, his marauding runs forward with positive end product have all but gone. His injuries since signing for the club have ruined any momentum and having only played the full 90 minutes twice in the past 12, rotating in both the left midfield and left back position. Furthermore, his defensive system of the team force JDS so narrow, often leaving the opposition player acers of space to utilize, leaving him caught in two minds when the ball is played across. Look at WBA’s fist goal for an example of this.
Cam Pring is playing his first season at this level, and realistically is going much better than anticipated, and has looked more comfortable when in the midfield position with less importance on his defensive workflow.
New signing George Tanner has looked suspect of late, but has looked better and played more than anticipated after his signing. The hard challenging right back looks uncomfortable when defending any situation, and his reliance on aimlessly pumping long balls down the line for Martin, loses possession more than not.
In central midfield, Matty James should always been in the team, his absence on Saturday showed the frailty of the midfield. His ability to win the ball back in the middle of the park is something the team lack.
Also on the injury table is Joe Williams, who when he has got game time proved his worth. His tenacity and ball work complimented James well against Peterborough. He is someone what many fans want to see more of; but maybe are realising the £2,000,000 spent on the former Wigan man may have gone down the drain.
Cult figure Han-Noah Massengo has been one of the shining lights from this season. His progression from what seemed a stagnant season or so without Johnson has been critical to the team. Even with his mistakes at the Ricoh, the thought of dropping him from the side would be unfair.
Tyreeq Bakinson has had many fans of the club get on his back, saying he is sub-par for the division and someone who shouldn’t be at the club. Go back 6 months, he was the golden boy, having made over 30 appearances in his debut season with the first team. Personally, one of, if not the best player in red during the first half of both games in the past week. Criticism has come too heavy on him.
Alex Scott has been favoured in most games with season, wither on the right-hand side of the midfield or in the central area. Both him and Kasey Palmer are relative ‘luxury players’, and with the state of the side as it is; the squad can’t be carrying someone. The youngster looked a little reckless when in a more controlled position on the pitch. His involvement on games are should similar to that of Nicolas Eliasson; skilful player with bundles of energy and attacking thoughts that should be expressed off the bench.
Personally for me, the ‘front three’ from Saturday worked the best of any attacking combination so far this season. Callum O’Dowda and Andi Weimann out wide, with the Irishman proving his skillset and adaptation to the game, his narrow inside runs proving a real threat to the Coventry back line; winning the penalty and realistically should have been awarded another earlier in the game.
Weimann is a stalwart in the team; his energy and commitment to the cause cannot or should not be faulted. Since his transfer four seasons ago, he has been utilised best on the right, but looks to struggle in that position currently due to the lack of paced build up the team play. It is either too slow, with the opposition defence having time to rebuild or having to chase endless aimless punts up field.
Antione Semenyo has been out for practically the whole season, making four substitute appearances before missing the last 10 with injury. His pace is something that the team is gagging for and his willingness to carry the ball forward and desire to use the ball is exciting. As of yet he is yet to show his consistent end product. Both his goals last season in the league came off his backside
Chris Martin has appeared in every game so far this season, playing the full 90 in all but two matches. He is Pearson’s go to man up top and many fans scapegoat.
Imagine that; a big man playing up top in a style that doesn’t fit him being the scapegoat. He is receiving the same treatment from some fans as Diedhiou got.
Martin is 6’0. Pumping endless balls into the air for him to battle against two of the opposition central defenders has never been his game, nor should be. It has been documented that he his most effective way of playing his getting it to his feet and having players close to him for a lay off.
Do I believe he is high enough quality to lead the City front line? No. Is he the best option so far? Yes.
What I don’t get is, why do fans in the stands repetitively grown and shout at the man when he fails to win the umpteenth ball that has been punted in the air? Or when he is unable to chase a overhit ball down the right flank? He is up for the fight. He puts in the hard work.
Nahki Wells looks like he would rather be anywhere else but, on the pitch, when he gets gametime. His signing was meant to help City, who were a single point off the play-offs achieve the dream, or at least show his worth to a club in desperate need of support in attack. His ability to break though the line of defence would he highlighted to more fans if the passes aimed towards him were somewhat accurate. The Barnsley match is one that stands out to me. Multiple times he got in behind the Tykes defence, but the supply would run through to the keeper on almost every occasion. Sadly, the time he did get the chance to shoot he uncharacteristically ballooned his strike well clear of the bar.
Well uncharacteristically in the sense of his career before City. Since his arrival to Ashton Gate you would wonder if shoving Arnold Gartia up top would have any less effect as the Bermudan has so far.
So, what is Bristol City’s best team? Who should Nigel Pearson be picking if he’s still in charge come November 20?
I do not really know, and I don’t think anyone knows. As fans we all have separate ideas on who should be in the team. But ultimately, we all run on emotion and in a fortnights time we could have six or seven different players in our perceived best XI.
I do not get paid to pick the team or do I see the happenings at the ironically named ‘High Performance Centre’ but after sharing my thoughts it would all mean nothing if I did not have a go.
We have looked smart and at our best this season with the 4-4-1-1; but I feel that a slightly more robust 4-3-3 could be used efficiently.
Bentley, Tanner, Kalas, Baker, JDS, James, Williams, Massengo, Weimann, COD, Martin.
The tenacity of that midfield, with Callum O’Dowda and Andi Weimann coming in narrow to support Martin like they did during the first half of the Coventry match. Baker and Kalas are the best two defenders at the club. The Czech helping Tanner through the match, and Baker helping JDS with his hight at the back post.
That does mean I would leave out the likes of Scott, Wells and Pring. Who are all personal favourites of many fans and players that would feel hard done by if they were to not feature.
This will be discussed endlessly forever, and at this moment of the clubs history will be argued about more intensely than ever.
But what would your team be? Do you agree with my assessments of the current squad?