Bristol news Smith concern and reasons to be cheerful - City talking points ahead of Forest MetiNews.Com
MetiNews.Com - Will the Robins be able to reignite their play-off bid at the City Ground or fade into further mediocrity and misery?
Breaking News ! Let’s start with a nice dash of optimism: Bristol City have lost to Nottingham Forest just once in their last 10 games. A sequence that includes six victories. As much as people like to crow about “bogey teams” in the context of their own side, it’s worth establishing that City have been exactly that to Forest throughout much of the 2010s. The recent past may be irrelevant in shaping the destiny of tonight’s 90 minutes but the Robins need all the help they can get in reversing a worrying run of results either side of the lockdown. What transpires at the City Ground could be a significant turning point for their season or simply further confirmation of their inadequacies and ahead of the game, here are some major talking points … Read More Related Articles Surprise in defence: Bristol City predicted team to face Nottingham Forest Who needs the ball anyway? A familiar problem emerged during Sunday’s defeat to Sheffield Wednesday – well, one of many perhaps – City’s inability to be productive when afforded the majority of the possession. Admittedly there wasn’t much in it – 50.9%-49.1% - but it continued a worrying and damning trend for the Robins this season. In games where they’ve had 50% or more of the possession their win percentage is just 21.4% (W3 D3 L8), whereas their success rate when they fall below that quota is 48% (W12 D7 L6). Read More Related Articles 'Options' - Nottingham Forest manager delivers his verdict on out-of-form Bristol City Read More Related Articles Boost for Bristol City as EFL chairman calls for ‘unfair’ Premier League parachute payments to end Even those with an adversity to statistics can see that City are a significantly better and more effective team when they’re playing in reaction to the opposition then when having to force the issue. The reason that is pertinent for tonight is that Forest rank way down in tied-17th for average possession of the Championship’s 24 teams with just 47.7% per match. City are just above them on 47.8%. So, exactly who dominates the ball tonight is something of a mystery. Maybe, due to being at home, Forest will naturally try and take hold and force the issue. Based on the season so far, the Robins will be wise to let them. Johnson’s best versions of Bristol City have always largely been about quick-paced transitional football, with minimal passes and touches from A to B. In Niclas Eliasson, Jamie Paterson, Callum O'Dowda, Andi Weimann, Nahki Wells, Benik Afobe and, to a slightly lesser extent Kasey Palmer, he has numerous counter-attacking options. They can't all play, but that's a potent set of options to find a goalscoring formula. Follow Bristol City Live on social media Keep up to all the latest from Ashton Gate via our Facebook page dedicated to the Robins You can also follow us on Twitter at @bristolcitylive Our Robins reporter Gregor MacGregor will also keep you up-to-date with all the goings-on at BS3 @GeeMacGee How many changes? We’ve speculated about what the starting XI will look like HERE but after making seven changes from his line-up at Blackburn to Sheffield Wednesday, it’s reasonable to expect more from Johnson at the City Ground. And, in truth, he doesn’t have much choice given the intensity of the schedule and question marks over form (Massengo, Hunt, Dasilva), fitness (Weimann, Afobe) and durability (Williams, Smith), with considerations probably already in place for Cardiff on Saturday. At the same time Bristol City have largely been bereft of any sustained continuity in their performances at Ewood Park and Ashton Gate so to make another set of alterations of the same magnitude as Sunday would likely prevent that even further. As has been pointed out on social media, Johnson has already used 21 players since the restart, more than Wolves have all season; Marley Watkins and Filip Benkovic would take that to 23 in three matches if they get onto the field at any stage. Bristol City Head Coach Lee Johnson (Image: Rogan/JMP) Exactly where the balance is between playing the best/most suitable XI, the overall health and fitness of the players, maintaining chemistry among his team, and considering what lies ahead on Saturday in a likely season-defining game, is a desperately difficult puzzle indeed for the head coach. A problem not helped with the additional context of City’s wretched form and his own propensity for constant change. Can Korey last the pace? As an extension of that point, it’s probably worth focusing on Smith because in many ways he’s fast becoming City’s most important player, but also his existence creates a problem; and that’s meant in a positive sense.
. He may not be operating on all cylinders but he’s literally the only true defensive midfielder they have after Markus Henriksen’s departure. Yes, Zak Vyner is an option following his experiment at Aberdeen and during the warm-ups but it’s really a fall-back option for Johnson.
Korey Smith and Kasey Palmer
Smith is captain for a reason in a team and squad desperately in need of leadership and togetherness with only Williams the other true, natural vocal presence on the field and in the dressing room. But as these qualities make him increasingly indispensable, it’s easy to forget that he’s only started 13 Championship matches this season and is just half a season – if that – removed from two very serious injuries. It will be staggering if he completes 90 minutes across the remaining seven games but he may well have to, given the lack of options for Johnson in that area of the field. Ideally Johnson would be able to leave him out either tonight, on Saturday or maybe Hull next Wednesday, but the potential damage that could cause to the team could be too great. It’s a lingering issue that won’t go away between now and July 22. And if Smith does get through it, when he trudges off the field against Preston the first thing he should see when he walks back down the tunnel is a new contract.
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Cometh the hour, cometh the Kasey? We poured over this debate extensively earlier in the week but the longer Kasey Palmer is left out of the equation, the greater the size of the stick becomes to beat Johnson with over his apparent inability to see the No45’s qualities. The way Palmer moves across the pitch, opening his body and looking for those eye-of-the-needle passes is sorely lacking from an often functional side in an attacking sense; not enough of what City do in the final third surprises you. But Palmer’s selection shouldn’t be made out of desperation – although, granted, it’s getting to that stage – it should be because he’s the right man for the job against the right opponent.
Championship play-offs run-in: Who Bristol City, Nottingham Forest and rivals have left to play
And unfortunately this is where his unique ability is as much as a curse as it is a gift. Johnson is obviously mindful that City don’t have the necessary midfield protection to cover his faults when he loses possession cheaply, and often in dangerous areas. The Robins have looked vulnerable in the middle of the park ever Since Josh Brownhill departed for Burnley and putting Palmer into a central three – which is the only sensible solution as a two would be catastrophic – would only further expose that. But at some stage the dice will surely have to be rolled as the need for wins and points mounts. The issue is what lies before City at the City Ground and a Forest team who are solid and strong in the middle of the park and even though they don’t dominate possession (see above), are rigid and determined and look to disrupt any sense of fluidity. Maybe Palmer is ideal for those circumstances but, equally, his involvement could leave City looking even weaker in an area of the field which is fast becoming their primary problem area.
Bristol City midfielder Kasey Palmer
It’s still very much on Breaking the fourth wall here, as a newspaper/website we’re often accused of being too positive towards City amid growing calls for Johnson’s head after a season of apparent rank underachievement (we’re not going to go into that right now but is obviously a debate for a different day). True, the performances, in the main, haven’t been of the required standard when you consider them as a total body of work rather than picking out exceptions – Fulham (A), Huddersfield (H), Reading (A), Derby (H) etc. But while we will select specific areas of criticism – whether that’s of the head coach or players or the structure of the club – the underlying fact remains that, for all their faults, this Bristol City team are still in contention for the play-offs. On July 1, 2020 they may not look anything like a top six-ready side and, boy, is the argument as to why they won’t make it pretty substantial, there is talent across the squad – particularly in an attacking sense – and the Championship is such, that a run of 2-3 wins can make a massive difference.
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Forest look strong and devilishly difficult to beat but, by that token, imagine the lift it will give to everyone concerned to emerge at just before 8pm tonight with a victory. All the anger, misery and memes of the last 48 hours or so will be replaced with optimism and belief once again. Even defeat at Forest doesn’t totally take City out of the equation given the relative ease of the fixtures beyond Cardiff, if they can just get something out of the Bluebirds. And while their remains a chance, however slim it may be in the context of how they’re playing, it’s worth clinging on to some sense of positivity. Otherwise, really, what’s the point?
Source = MetiNews.Com