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No pace, no width, no Kalas: Nigel Pearson is under pressure as Bristol City fans deserve more

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Is it crazy to say that Nigel Pearson is a man under pressure after only two games in the new Championship season? Along with a lot of other fans I think he is.

Three wins from 17 Championship fixtures since Pearson took charge and arguably that should really be two wins from 16 fixtures, as the first win was, coincidentally, against Saturdays opponents at the Riverside where he watched that game from the stands, and so his influence was debatable.

We are winless in 12 Championship games, the last three points coming way back on March 13 and we have suffered 10 defeats in that run. Not great stats whoever you are and whatever reputation you have.

I personally do like the manager and I think that given time he will turn things around, but time is not often a commodity afforded in the modern football world.

In the season opener at home to Blackpool last week I did see some good signs but most of my initial positivity has been somewhat drained following a fairly lacklustre defeat on penalties to Forest Green Rovers in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night, and then a very average performance and defeat to Middlesbrough.

Cup shocks aren’t a surprise and had City been more professional in the last few minutes of that game and similarly in the match against Blackpool, we would have been making the 528 mile round trip to Middlesbrough in good spirits on the back of two wins, but we didn’t see those games out and so even this early on in the season the pressure is on.

The number of changes against Forest Green on Tuesday was expected and I wasn’t surprised when the only alteration to the starting line up for the Boro game from the 11 that started against Blackpool, was Kasey Palmer coming in for the injured Callum O’Dowda.

I wasn’t surprised but I did think Pearson had gotten it wrong. It is hard for anyone to argue that Tomas Kalas isn’t Bristol City’s best defender and so why he didn’t start against Neil Warnock’s side is beyond me.

I know that the manager wants to play a 4-2-3-1 formation, but I just don’t think that we have the players to do that.

When playing a one-up top you need either a strong physical No9 who can hold the ball up and bring onrushing midfielders into play or you need a quick direct striker who can run in behind and cause problems; Chris Martin through no fault of his own is neither of these.

This current Bristol City side has no width, has no pace, and lacks leadership. We are too easy to play against and I am struggling to see any improvement from the style of football and performance than that which I witnessed in Lee Johnson’s last games in charge and pretty much for all of Dean Holden’s tenure.



Bristol City fans at the Riverside (Rogan/JMP)

I’m not calling for a change and maybe I am just a grumpy 50-year-old but when you travel over 500 miles you hope for at least some entertainment and I genuinely didn’t get any.

We must get Kalas back in the side and I would opt for playing five at the back; Kalas, Nathan Baker and Rob Atkinson in the middle with Zak Vyner on the right and Cam Pring on the left.

I would have Matty James, Han Noah Massengo and Tyreeq Bakinson in the middle with Nahki Wells and Chris Martin up top in a two.

People will ask where the creativity will come from but frankly, we are seeing very little creativity with Palmer, Andi Weimann and Alex Scott in the team. If we stick with a four at the back, then Baker drops out for me.

The lack of pace in the side is a real concern for me, we had 62% possession on Saturday and 10 shots on target but honestly it never felt like that. We didn’t really threaten Boro aside from the goal which was a spot-on delivery from Matty James and good movement or feigned movement from King and then for five minutes after.

Other than that, for me Boro always looked the more likely and in my view deserved the win.

The very fact that Pearson came down from his position in the stands 15 minutes into the second-half showed that he was unhappy with what he was seeing.

Many will say that the manager being in the stand is not an issue. It is for me. I want to see my manager as a presence on the side of the pitch, I want the players to see him there.

He can get his message across, and for a 10-minute period after he came down, we performed a little better. It also coincided with the introduction of Wells.

It’s true that we shot ourselves in the foot, we defended badly for both Boro goals and when in possession we just gave it away too easily.

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We hit too many diagonal balls that went out of play, we gave Martin terrible service and when he did manage to hold the ball up no one was running off him. We got into several advanced positions but weren’t brave enough to take it on, too often turning back and returning the ball to the defenders.

The manager talks about the players being empowered and taking responsibility and maybe that’s where not having leaders on the pitch is an issue. Someone to encourage the creative talents that we must drive on and take the risk.

I’d like to see Pearson make changes for Tuesday’s game at Reading. I’d like to see him on the touchline from the start and applauding his fans before and after the game.

I’d also like to see a better connection between the manager and Bristol Live’s Gregor MacGregor; Gregor is doing his job and deserves a little more respect in terms of the manner of response.

I accept that Pearson doesn’t suffer fools gladly, but Gregor is asking questions that fans want asked and whilst I don’t expect the manager to divulge information you can still respond in the correct manner, even if you don’t like the question. Of course, most of all I’d like to see a win.

Our 3 Peaps In a Podcast Bonus show rating were: Dan Bentley 5, Zak Vyner 4, Jay Dasilva 6, Nathan Baker 6, Rob Atkinson 6* MotM, Andy King 5, Matty James 5, Alex Scott 5, Kasey Palmer 5, Andi Weimann 5, Chris Martin 6.

Nigel Pearson scored a 4. Tomas Kalas needs to be in the side, and we need to eradicate the basic defensive mistakes and get more attacking intent in the side.

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