It’s been just over two months since the last meeting and though Brentford have found wins hard to come by recently, Bristol City seem to have stuttered, too. Would that be a fair summary of events?
Yes, absolutely. They followed up the Brentford win with a 1-0 win over Hull in a game that could have quite easily have gone either way, but after that they lost four matches in a row and the pressure started to build on Lee Johnson. The atmosphere at Ashton Gate started to turn a little bit, with home performances not being too good this season, but fortunately, they turned things around in the four games that followed that losing streak, winning two and drawing two.
They were perhaps a tad unfortunate to have come away with a point from an entertaining 2-2 draw with Norwich on 15 December, but a performance like that, against a top side, must give fans hope they aren’t merely cut out for mid-table mediocrity?
That was a really uplifting performance down this way because, as I said, the home form has been pretty poor so far this season - they’ve only won three of 11 games – and a lot of fans were saying after the Norwich game that they believed that was probably, for certain periods, at least, the best City have played at home this season.
Arguably it’s a similar pattern of play and style that we saw last year at the beginning of the season, when City climbed up to second in the league before Boxing Day and went on the Carabao Cup run, so this is the first time they’ve matched that. It was a really good performance and it was just annoying that they switched off and let Norwich come back into the game to grab the equaliser, which is, unfortunately, a little habit they’ve had this season and might be a hope for Brentford; in four of the 11 home games, Bristol City have been winning and then conceded the lead to go on and draw the game.
Famara Diedhiou seems to have got off and running for the season with three goals in his last five games, but who is the player that’s impressed you the most recently?
I wouldn’t say it’s him that’s impressed me the most this season because he played pretty well last season and he has been very patchy in this; I’d probably say he’s a major reason why Bristol City’s form has been inconsistent because it mirrors his own form. He’s the spearhead and their problem is that they don’t score enough goals and they haven’t got enough goalscorers across the side, so there’s a lot of reliance on Diedhiou and when he’s not scoring, it can be tough for them. He has come in to form, though, and looks to be enjoying a decent period of the season. He turned 26 on Saturday and there’s a lot of hope that he can now kick on, maybe add that consistency to his game and go on to score 10-15 goals.
In terms of who I have been most impressed with, there’s a lot of talk among the fans as to who is their standout player and I think most would agree that it’s probably been Josh Brownhill in the centre of midfield, who has just been consistent.
What are the club likely to be on the lookout for in the transfer window, if anything?
Lee Johnson is always fairly honest in his press conferences and open about this kind of stuff and he’s basically said that the club want to add some “sparkle”, which was the exact word he used. Essentially, they haven’t got enough goals in the side and they haven’t been clinical or creative enough in the final third. So he’s said that they need to possibly trade in the January transfer window, which means they might have to sell to do that, but they have got a few fringe players that they might want to move on for more regular first team football chances elsewhere. We know they are looking for a striker and he has said a couple of times that’s what he’s after, along with a number 10-type player, but he has also said that, as with everybody in the January market, it is tough to find that player that you want and they’d have to be affordable.
How is Lee Johnson likely to set up his side for the Boxing Day clash?
Most of the team is fairly settled now so it’ll be a 4-4-1-1 formation. At the back it’s been Niki Maenpaa, who has been outstanding in goal, Eros Pisano is at right-back currently, having overtaken Jack Hunt, the centre-backs will be Tomas Kalas and probably Adam Webster, though the latter missed the Norwich game with an Achilles problem, but it’s not expected to be a long-term issue. The left-back is Lloyd Kelly and then in midfield it’s Josh Brownhill and Marlon Pack. On the wings it’ll probably be Callum O’Dowda, who has hit form recently, and either Niclas Eliasson or Andreas Weimann and then up front, Diedhiou is leading the line, with Jamie Paterson playing just behind him.
The 1-0 win in Thomas Frank’s first game in charge was the Robins’ first league win over the Bees since March 2007. What’s your score prediction for this one?
Brentford have done pretty well at Ashton Gate of late, so I think they could maybe get a draw. However, I think City are due to come into some form and given the Bees poor form of late, I’m going to go for a narrow City win. 1-0.