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Late window activity for play-off chasing Bristol City - Interview
Friday, 31st Jan 2020 17:25 by Clive Whittingham

Always difficult to keep up with events as they change by the minute at the end of the transfer window, but The Exiled Robin did his best to give us the lowdown from Ashton Gate ahead of tomorrow's meeting.

How would you assess the season overall?

It's been a bit of a funny one to be honest. We're sixth so you'd expect me to say we're all on a high, and I guess that's mainly true but there have been periods of unrest about form, team selections and the manager generally. We're bottom of some xG tables, our goalkeeper has made more saves than anyone else in the division and we create fewer 'big chances' than almost the entire division. So have we been good? Are we good enough for sixth? They say the league table never lies and ultimately we're finding ways of getting results through sheer bloody-mindedness, hard work and commitment - we're just hoping that can carry us through until May.

League results so far…
Bristol City 1-3 Leeds (Weimann 79 – Hernandez 29, Bamford 57, Harrison 72)
Birmingham 1-1 Bristol City (Jutciewicz 67 – Rowe 82)
Bristol City 2-0 QPR (Nagy 29, Afobe 59)
Derby 1-2 Bristol City (Marriott 85 – Weimann 16, Brownhill 45)
Hull 1-3 Bristol City (Bowen 44 – Afobe pen 41, 80, Burke og 78)
Bristol City 2-2 Middlesbrough (Palmer 44, Rowe 81 – Moore og 64, Assombalonga 68)
Stoke 1-2 Bristol City (Clucas 4 – Diedhiou 55, Edwards og 62)
Bristol City 0-0 Swansea
Preston 3-3 Bristol City (Gallagher pen 45, Johnson pen 51, Bauer 70 – Moore 29, Weimann 36, Baker 60)
Brentford 1-1 Bristol City (Da Silva 64 – Weimann 87)
Bristol City 1-0 Reading (Diedhiou 12)
Luton 3-0 Bristol City (Ruddock 56, Cornick 62, Williams og 90)
Bristol City 2-1 Charlton (Diedhiou 75, Brownhill 90 - Bonne 65)
Bristol City 2-2 Wigan (Weimann 39, Pereira 86 – Dunkley 44, 53)
Barnsley 2-2 Bristol City (Halme 77, Woodrow 90 – Williams 43, Weimann 71)
Cardiff 0-1 Bristol City (Brownhill 67)
Bristol City 0-0 Forest
West Brom 4-1 Bristol City (Gibbs 10, Pereira 39, Robson Kanu 82, Austin 89 – Diedhiou 80)
Bristol City 5-2 Huddersfield (Brownhill 11, Kongolo og 30, Eliasson 36, Williams 40, Weimann 49 – Grant 35, Bacuna 57)
Fulham 1-2 Bristol City (Kamara 87 – Brownhill 26, Diedhiou 76)
Bristol City 1-2 Millwall (O’Dowda 84 – Wallace 11, Cooper 70)
Bristol City 0-2 Blackburn (Johnson 2, Armstrong 77)
Sheff Wed 1-0 Bristol City (Bannan pen 85)
Charlton 3-2 Bristol City (Bonne 40, 77, Doughty 82 – Weimann 46, Eliasson 60)
Bristol City 3-0 Luton (Watkins 4, Diedhiou pen 44, Weimann 66)
Bristol City 0-4 Brentford (Mbeumo 6, Benrahma 26, Watkins 82, 90)
Wigan 0-2 Bristol City (Paterson 77, Diedhiou 79)
Bristol City 1-0 Barnsley Eliasson 87)
Reading 0-1 Bristol City (Paterson 62)

Really bad run through December but you’ve turned it round of late - typical streaky Bristol City or has something changed?

Definitely streaky bacon time. As I've suggested above it's tricky to pinpoint. Did we just miss out on some of the good fortune we've had before and since and our results were actually averaging out to the norm, or was something awry? There have been reports of a couple of unsettled players in the dressing-room, centering around Kasey Palmer, and it's interesting that he hasn't been involved at all in our recent run of wins. I believe though that ultimately we've been able to keep a more settled side in recent weeks, a consistent back four including both Nathan Baker who's been our best defender and the returning Jay Dasilva have looked more cohesive and hard to break down, especially with Korey Smith also back to fitness and sitting in front of them. We've tried various players in the defensive midfield role this season but none have done enough consistently.

We've also probably had the best two months of Famara Diedhiou's Bristol City career - a figure who polarises opinions at times, he's worked his bullocks off recently, as good in defence as he is in attack and despite missing a few clear chances, has started putting the goals away too. Add in the return from Derby of a point-to-prove Jamie Paterson who offers something different from an attacking midfield perspective and you can start to identify why we've improved.

Lee Johnson always seems better regarded outside Bristol than in to me, is that fair? Where are the fans with him?

Yes I'd definitely say that's fair. If you'd asked me as little as three weeks ago I'd have said the majority were probalby feeling it was time for a change, either now or in the summer. There's a large 'noisy minority' who regularly comment against him, and I suspect there's also a groundswell of quieter folk who don't understand what the issue is. At a basic level he's improved us year on year, coped with the selling of his key players every summer and brought through players to sell on at a big profit (more on that in a sec!). He's aligned with the club in terms of wanting to be sustaiable and understanding the budget limitations - I think the big question everyone has right now is whether he can just push on that extra level.

I’m meant to ask about your January transfer activity at this point but we’re rather sick of hearing about it to be honest... go on, talk us through your window…

Well, nothing's really happened so far except the return of the Pat....until today! As I write this it seems like we're about to sign a bloke called Wells, striker I think. Have you heard of him?
The noise on the streets seems to be some sort of swap deal with captain Josh Brownhill going the other way to Burnley in exchange for Wells and around £4m. He'll be a loss, but we need a striker more right now and that's a good value deal for us. And in the last half an hour we've been linked with Ethan Ampadu on loan from Chelsea, maybe a CB too and a couple of the youngsters in and around the squad going out on loan. Think it's going to be an interesting 36 hours at Ashton Gate!

Ins: Tomas Kalas, CB, Chelsea, £8m >>> Han-Noah Messengo, CM, Monaco, £7m >>> Nahki Wells, 29, CF, Burnley, £4.5m part ex >>> Kasey Palmer, AM, Chelsea, £3.4m >>> Adam Nagy, DM, Bologna, £2.4m >>> Jay Dasilva, LB, Chelsea, £2.5m >>> Daniel Bentley, GK, Brentford, £1.5m >>> Benik Afobe, CF, Stoke, Loan >>> Pedro Pereira, RB, Benfica, Loan >>> Sammy Szmodics, AM, Colchester, Free >>> Rene Gilmartin, GK, Colchester, Free >>> Tommy Rowe, LM, Doncaster, Free >>> Robbie Cundy, CB, Bath City, Undisclosed

Outs: Adam Webster, CB, Brighton, £20m >>> Lloyd Kelly, RB, Bournemouth, £13m >>> Josh Brownhill, 24, CM, Burnley, part ex >>> Marlon Pack, CM, Cardiff, £700k >>> Mo Eisa, CF, Peterborough, Undisclosed >>> Frank Fielding, GK, Millwall, Free >>> Stefan Marinovic, GK, Wellington, Free >>> Joe Morrell, CM, Lincoln, Loan >>> Jamie Paterson, AM, Derby, Loan >>> Bailey Wright, 27, CB, Sunderland, Loan >>> Robbie Cundy, CB, Exeter, Loan >>> Eros Pisano, FB, Released >>> Max O’Leary, GK, Shrewsbury, Loan >>> Rory Holden, CF, Walsall, Loan >>> Matty Taylor, 29, CF, Oxford, Loan >>> Hakeeb Adelakun, 23, RW, Rotherham, Loan

Stand out players and weak links in the team?

Daniel Bentley has come in from Brentford between the sticks and been as good a goalkeeper as we've had in years. He's prone to the odd error or lapse of concentration, but his shot saving, box dominance and distribution are all up there with anyone in the division.

Our record when Nathan Baker plays at centre-back is top two form, and then more like bottom six when he doesn't. It may be a statistical quirk but no doubt we look stronger when he's heading bricks away in the heart of the defence.

Going forward Diedhiou can be the difference without being the clincal, 20-goal striker teams feel they need, but the star has probably been Niclas Eliasson, who is clear at the top of the Championship's assists table and on track to break the (recent) league record despite having played only around half our games this season. His crossing is sublime and rumours of interest from Serie A and Bundesliga clubs has started to swirl around

Expectations for the remainder of the season? Promotion realistic?

A lot depends on the next 36 hours and then whether we can then keep key players fit. If we sign Wells, and reinforcements further down the spine, then we've got every chance of finishing in the top six. We're one of about eight or nine teams clustered together scrabbling for the crumbs of the play-off positions. With a bit of luck and a few Nakhi Wells goals, we might just get there. Fingers crossed then for the lottery!

Links >>> Bristol City official website >>> The Exiled Robin – Blog >>> One Team In Bristol – Message Board >>> Bristol Post – Local Paper

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TacticalR added 14:32 - Feb 1
Thanks to Exiled Robin.

City seem all over the place in terms of results this season although have picked up form in January. Maybe Wells will get them over the line.

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