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Robins looking to recover from loss of key players - Interview
Monday, 20th Aug 2018 19:19 by Clive Whittingham

Bristol City lost their three best players over the summer and have started the season with two draws and a loss. So is our regular contributor Exiled Robin worried?

Bristol City started last season brilliantly and had an amazing cup run but then seemed to run out of steam somewhat. Overall, how would you judge the campaign?

ER: Exactly as you described really. For five months we played fast, attacking, exciting high-press football and I think the cup run actually has made some people forget just how good we were in the league. We played Wolves on the penultimate evening of 2017 lying in second place and had thrashed Derby, won at Fulham and Sheffield United and beaten Cardiff and Middlesbrough by that time. But a combination of the big cup matches, injuries and a loss of momentum conspired to make the season fall away in a limp, rather lacklustre fashion.

Three of the outstanding players from that team have been sold for big money, but there have been incomings – assess the summer for us?

ER: Yes, losing Joe Bryan, Bobby Reid and Aden Flint was inevitable once we didn't get promoted but it's not just their quality that we're missing in my view. They were three members of the squad that got promoted a few years ago and had grown together and there were a lot of close relationships within the squad - they're all still very close. I know that's not all-important but I think it must be a factor within the dressing-room and that spirit and togetherness now needs a bit of a rebuild.

We brought in a series of fairly established Championship performers (if not big names) in Adam Webster, Jack Hunt and Andreas Weimann amongst others and it's too early to judge them, but aged between 23-26 you'd hope they've got a good few years ahead of them with us. What we didn't get and needed in my view was a quality goalkeeper and an obvious replacement for Bobby Reid's goals. Add in the fact Flint and Bryan always chipped in with useful goals and assists too and you're looking at 35-40 goals/chances to replace which is no easy task.

Lee Johnson’s career has been a series of long winning and losing runs at both Barnsley and Bristol City. Is there a concern that the lacklustre end to last season could bleed into this one, particularly with the departures?

ER: Definitely. Having been on a great run last year with the end of the previous season added to by our great start, the current stats read four wins in 28 games and those are keen to be quick to criticise are pointing that out vehemently. He's got to prove he can stop these losing runs, can organise defensively and can consistently sign good players (we'll see how those who have come in settle) - all easy mud to sling at him for those that want to.

Two draws and a defeat so far, how’s the start of the season been?

ER: It depends how you look at it. The more negative would say we're ineffective in both areas, can't defend and don't look like winning a game, whilst the more positive would point out we've played Forest and Boro - both likely contenders - and a Bolton side who have started the season surprisingly well. They would also ask for time for the new signings to settle down and point to the fact we've got lots of injuries in defence and our number one striker (Famara Diedhiou) and goalkeeper (Frank Fielding) have yet to play due to suspension and injury respectively. I think the concern is that many fans had an idea of the sorts of players we should have signed in the summer and - at the moment - we can't really see that type in the squad.

Where is the team strong and where is it weak?

ER: We're decent and pretty in the middle, but a bit on the short side, look a bit lightweight and don't dominate in either box - and that's a worrying sign. Up front we've got Diedhiou out suspended until the end of August, so Weimann is ploughing a lone furrow in a position he's not played a lot in his career, supported by Jamie Paterson who's been moved inside from the wing to the number ten role and two unproven forwards coming off the bench. At the back we've got a brand new back 4/5 effectively and it's tricky to tell how good they'll be in time, but at present we look to lack anyone who can come through and dominate, clearing high and loose balls and give us some breathing space.

How do you envisage this season going?

ER: Three weeks ago I was saying solid mid-table. I must admit the start has spooked me a little and I'm probably erring towards a position between 14th-18th now, hopefully steering clear of any real relegation trouble.

The Twitter @loftforwords, @theexiledrobin

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TacticalR added 20:49 - Aug 20
Thanks to Exiled Robin.

It sounds like Bristol City have made as many changes us as, although with more players coming in. The big difference is that City have kept their manager.

Myke added 09:53 - Aug 21
No real comparison between ourselves and City; they are miles further down the road in terms of being settled and stable. Developing and selling your best players is the model we are trying to replicate, but it has to be baby steps. Even for City, selling 3 top players at the same time is a bit of a stretch and they would probably being wise to try and hold onto one of them until January. In terms of where they are at right now it is probably a very good time to play them as I'm sure when injuries and suspensions come to an end and the new players start to gel they will be fine.
But in terms of where we are after Saturday - who knows how it will pan out? Our shocking 5-2 defeat at home to Forest provoked a reaction last season with our best away performance of the season at Villa, so I would be hoping for something similar tonight. But to be honest, I would settle for a scrappy point just to get SOMETHING on the board

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