Bristol City finished seven points outside of the play-offs last season and, though they experienced a downturn in fortunes before Christmas, they’ve been in and around the top six for most of the season so far. How would you sum up what you’ve seen so far?
They had a good start, but that’s not been unusual because the same can be said for the last three or four seasons. They’ve started to fall away recently, certainly since the last international break, and they lost five of the seven games prior to Boxing Day, so they must be one of the most out-of-form teams in the division. This is no real surprise for supporters either because, over the last few years, they’ve fallen away after Christmas. But most of the results have come about because they’ve got horrendous injury problems. I know every team has got injury problems of their own, but for the defeat to Preston on 18 December, they were missing a whole team, albeit that one of them was through suspension. A fair few of those are long-term and only one or two are expected to be back by the time this game comes around. Those are key players and it’s having an effect.
Lee Johnson’s former assistant Dean Holden took over at Ashton Gate on a permanent basis back in August. Aside from a short spell in charge of Oldham he had little managerial experience, so is it fair to say he’s met expectations?
It’s a difficult one to answer because of the current form but he certainly started well and exceeded expectations. If City can get back to that level, which they may well do when some more players start to come back, then you could say that, but at this moment in time, it depends which way things go. If everything continues to go south then it could well be the case that, by the end of the season, he’s under real pressure. If you were assessing it right at this moment, you’d say he’d done what’s expected of him so far. His first 20 games were the same as Lee Johnson’s first 20 games results-wise and in terms of where they were a year ago, they are pretty much on par.
Are the club going to be looking to strengthen in the transfer window, which opens today?
I don’t think they are going to be doing too much in January. They’ve got these injuries and about four or five are due to return this month so Dean Holden has said that the main thing is getting the likes of Nathan Baker, Alfie Mawson, Steven Sessegnon back, as well as two big ones in Liam Walsh and Joe Williams. Williams hasn’t played for the club yet so we’re yet to see what he’ll bring, whereas Walsh was outstanding with Coventry in League One last season and we haven’t seen him this season either. There is talk of them recalling a player or two from loan spells, too. They’ve got Kasey Palmer at Swansea and Marley Watkins at Aberdeen and a young player called Cam Pring, who is currently on loan at Portsmouth, so it could well be that they recall one or more of those guys to supplement the squad. If they do anything, they’ll bring just one player in and I’d say it would be a midfielder because they’ve got good striking options and they brought in Adrian Mariappa on a free transfer not so long ago.
Which player should Brentford fans be keeping an eye on this Saturday?
Definitely Nahki Wells (pictured above), who is probably the only consistent goal threat at the moment. At the time of speaking he’s the club’s top scorer with five goals but the team aren’t creating too many chances at the moment. Ordinarily I’d say Jamie Paterson, but there’s a doubt whether he’ll play as he’s one of the guys out injured. He’s got a hip injury, which is being assessed week-by-week.
How is Holden likely to set up his side at the Brentford Community Stadium?
They’ve switched between a 4-3-3 and a 3-5-2. Given that Brentford are one of the best attacking sides in the division, I’m sure they might go back to a 3-5-2, which has generally made them more secure at the back.
It’s a year since the last meeting, in which Brentford recorded a thumping 4-0 win. What’s your score prediction for this one?
Bristol City don’t have the best record against Brentford but they picked up a few decent results at Griffin Park. If City can get a couple of players back, I think they could look a bit more solid for this game and I do fancy them to maybe nick a draw, thought that might be wishful thinking. Let’s go for 1-1.
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