“VERY LOW PERSONAL MOTIVATION”: ARE BRISTOL CITY SLEEPWALKING INTO A RELEGATION BATTLE?
Bristol City are in a very dangerous position, having not won in seven at home and offering performances that are growing less impactful by the week.
The Robins rightfully lost 3-1 at the hands of relegation threatened Coventry City in a dismal performance, with even Nigel Pearson mentioning that the players had a “very low personal motivation.”
He also reminded fans and players alike that City aren’t free from the threat of relegation, a corner that appeared turned under the stewardship of previous occupant Lee Johnson.
Bristol City’s injury problems are well documented, with a number of key players such as Liam Walsh and Joe Williams out of action for a majority of the season.
When they have been able to muster a return from injury, it has ended in reoccurrence, with both ex-Everton midfielders lasting just over 100 minutes before finding their way back to the physio’s couch.
There is certainly a fair reflection that this can be the cause of poor form, with every single incoming from the summer window finding themselves injured at least once.
Every Championship side has their injury woes, but few have the multitude of the Robins have, and the frequency opens questions as to why?
It’s not a small squad at the disposal of Pearson, and previously Dean Holden, with great depth and an average age of 27 is quite misleading to the make-up the squad.
There are few outfield players at what could be described as their “peak”, the main being the out of form Famara Diedhiou (28), injury riddled Nathan Baker (29), Andreas Weimann (29), Jamie Paterson (29) and captain Tomas Kalas (27).
The rest is made up of two primary groups, the first being the “home grown” set of young players who are breaking through and finding their feet in England’s second tier.
The other is the over 30 contingent that are all on short term deals, including free agent signings: Danny Simpson, Adrian Mariappa and Henri Lansbury among others.
The most worrying from a fan’s perspective is these players are either playing for their contractual future at Ashton Gate or at least a place in Pearson’s plans for the future.
Yet week after week the ball is funnelled to the 19-year-old Han-Noah Massengo and 21-year-old Antoine Semenyo with it left to them to offer any ounce of creativity for the Robins.
With 13 players out of contract and the rest hoping to establish themselves as consistent members of Pearson’s squad, a lack “personal motivation” is inexcusable.
Only days on from the squad wearing a shirt with the names of fans who refused season ticket refunds last season exacerbates the lack of care to impress the fans.
Every side will have games where they don’t quite reach their full potential, but to be motivated to win should be the minimum, as emphahsised by Pearson’s own admission.
Pearson himself creates another issue, still only tied to a contract until the end of the campaign with owner Steve Lansdown still unable to meet the new manager due to Covid-19 restrictions.
The original appointment of Pearson showed signs that the higher ups had realised they took too long before appointing Dean Holden, but similar faults are occurring in the permanent decision with Pearson.
After the game the manager joked: “If I keep getting results like this, I might not be offered the job.” But the uncertainty limits the ability to completely plan for the upcoming campaign.
The signing of Danny Simpson suggests there’s an expectation of Pearson remaining at Ashton Gate, but if his squad are already faltering now will he believe they’re capable of reaching the topflight?
If Pearson is maintained, a squad ‘face-lift’ is required because at present there is a mismatch of three different manager’s philosophies pushed into one un-cohesive side.
City fans are all too familiar with this situation, as it completely echoes the side’s relegation in 2013 under the stewardship of Derek McInnes and Sean O’Driscoll after seasons of regression.
While it is unlikely that the Robins will go down this season, they cannot afford to fall away in a similar way, relegation should not be required for this reset.
The summer transfer window will be very telling as to the aims of Bristol City, but before they come to that hurdle, they must tie down Pearson and sort through their free agents.