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Pearson progress in evidence, but home woes continue - Interview
Friday, 17th Sep 2021 09:50 by Clive Whittingham

Bristol City's alarming slide through the second half of 2020/21 has been halted to a certain extent, though last minute goals from Blackpool and Luton have extended a winless run at home to 14 games. Dave Fevs surveys the lie of the land ahead of Saturday's meeting in W12.

How’s the season started?

It’s been a strange start. Most of the fanbase had relatively low expectations over the summer with comments like “anything but relegation”, “gonna be a struggle to stay up” but then as soon as the season starts they get disappointed we aren’t beating teams who finished above us last season. Prior to our visit to play your mob, we are sitting in twelfth place with nine points from seven games (2-3-2). We’ve generally played ok, much better than last season. We are on a massive rebuild and that takes time. We look competitive, much more physical, no longer a soft touch. It needs fine-tuning though.

Bristol City league results…
Bristol City 1-1 Blackpool Martin 44 – Lavery 90
Boro 2-1 Bristol City Ikpeazu 38, Crooks 70 – King 60
Reading 2-3 Bristol City Azeez 19, Moore 80 – Weimann 5, 52, Martin 14
Bristol City 0-1 Swansea Piroe 19
Cardiff 1-2 Bristol City Bentley og 59 – Weimann 21, 70
Bristol City 0-0 Preston
Bristol City 1-1 Luton Baker 57 – Hylton 90

Has Pearson been able to arrest that terrible slide last season?

Yes and no. Yes, in terms of able to compete and earn points, but no in terms of the fanbase struggling to look beyond a run of 14 games at Ashton Gate without a win carried over from last season. Two injury time opposition equalisers, against Blackpool on opening day and Luton in midweek have caused a lot of knee-jerk reaction based on results rather than performance. Admittedly against Luton we were second-best, and a win would’ve been unjust, even a draw was probably a point earned. And then on the flip side we’ve gone to Reading and Cardiff and picked up three points in each, with pretty good displays. Perhaps you’ll see City at their best this weekend, away from Ashton Gate? Off the pitch Nige is doing much more than dealing with playing matters. The club was left in a bit of a mess by the previous regime, and Pearson is overhauling that too. A new medical team has come in after last season’s injury debacle.

What transfer business did you do and how do you rate your window?

Adding to the point above regarding the overhaul, the squad was bloated and had many players out of contract in the summer. Pearson has slashed the wage bill, even getting Andi Weimann and Nathan Baker to re-sign on (allegedly) half of what they were on last season. Weimann even had a year option that we managed to avoid. Pearson went back to familiar territory bringing in Matty James, out of contract and Andy King, a Bristol City fan no less, both from Leicester. Our only “big signing” was Oxford’s Rob Atkinson for £1.6m. Might be something “dickie” in the water at Oxford for ball-playing centre-backs called Rob? He’s settled pretty well. We also picked up a right back, George Tanner from Carlisle for £300k. An ex-Man Utd academy player who will be around the first at some point this season.

Overall, I’m happy with the window. Pearson wanted two centre-backs (Atkinson and Baker), two centre-midfielders (James and King) and a striker who can put the ball in the back of the net. Andi Weimann’s early season goalscoring spurt has probably lowered the priority on that, but we are in a position where we must sell to buy, and the market is dead. We lost Adam Nagy to Pisa, so he won’t get his customary goal against you and Taylor Moore on loan to Hearts.

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

Where is the team strong and weak?

Still finding our way in terms of style, but it’s a hardworking 4411/442. It lacks true quality in the creative areas of the pitch but looks far more streetwise in the main. We are strong at set-pieces taken with the feet (!), but Reading aside, where we caught them out with a long throw, we have been wasteful with ones from the hand. It has slowed the tempo at home with excessive towel-drying. Time to revert to our usual throw-in routines, where we normally turn over possession. Nige has sorted us out without the ball. We don’t over-press from the front, but we have stopped teams walking the ball to the halfway line this season. We are fourth in the league for winning the ball back in the opponents third. Dickie won’t want to repeat his midweek dallying, nor last season’s.

What on Earth have you done to Nahki?

We are saving him for Saturday…..at right-back! Seriously he did a job for the team in the second half of last season on the left wing, and still ended up top scorer. But it didn’t get the best out of him. He returned to pre-season late due to Bermuda commitments and has had to wait for his chance. I think he’ll get a start this weekend. I think if he gets a chance to play in a pair with City he will score goals.

How do you think you’ll do this season now you’ve seen the team play?

I said pre-season I thought we were good enough on paper to be middle-eight, maybe bottom half of that group if we can’t resolve our home results. I don’t see us shipping lots of goals, but I don’t see us scoring lots either. I think a lot of draws will mean we can’t ignore looking over our shoulder, but if we do get some home wins, then I see no reason to look at mid-table obscurity, maybe just into top half. I’m comfortable with how we are playing. Rome wasn’t built in a day. We’ve started the season ok, I’d expect us to improve and become more cohesive as the season goes on. Won’t be easy against to get anything on Saturday afternoon, but I thought that last season…although that was very much a smash and grab, after you hammered us first half.

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

The Twitter @loftforwords, @fevsfootball

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JohnMcCo added 17:36 - Sep 17
Cheers to Dave, that was a very impartial review for a partial reviewer!

It must be really hard to stomach going from likely play off candidates year on year to looking over your shoulder. There is no way that City will be as bad as at Ashton Gate last season and it will be most intriguing to see how the season pans out with Pearson.

TacticalR added 23:25 - Sep 17
Thanks to Dave.

JohnMcCo makes a good point. How did City get into this state, when they looked strong until relatively recently? Did someone forget to put the oil in a well-oiled machine? Also strange that a side with Nahki Wells in it has had trouble scoring (although Wells can be a slow starter in a new team).

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